As GOP race tightens, Ciattarelli and Guadagno take off their gloves

Save Jersey sources in and around the Republican gubernatorial campaigns are confirming what a new spate of negative advertising strongly suggests: that the race to succeed Chris Christie as titular head of the NJGOP is tightening.

Kim Guadagno led Jack Ciattarelli by 11-points in a May 3rd Quinnipiac Poll.

Internal polling now finds a much closer (single-digit) contest with just under three weeks left to go before the primary election after a sustained mailbox war between the rival camps. 

This week? On Tuesday, Guadagno dropped an attack cable TV ad accusing her opponent of having a negative record on taxes.

“When it comes to taxes, Jack Ciattarelli agrees with Democrat Phil Murphy: Jack ’em up,” said Dave Huguenel, Guadagno campaign manager. “Jack’s support for higher gas, sales and income taxes as a Trenton assemblyman shows he won’t make New Jersey more affordable. Kim Guadagno is the only candidate in either party who hasn’t proposed a tax increase and will make property tax relief her number one priority as governor.”

Whether the attack turns back Ciattarelli’s momentum remains to be seen. For now, backers of the Somerset Assemblyman welcomes the Guadagno campaign’s decision to shift gears and throw punches as a sign of a winnable race.”

Cattarelli speaking at the Morris County Women’s Republican Club’s Candidates Night.

“Kim slept too long, went Left and now she’s paying for it; she’s toast,” one Central Jersey Republican official supporting Ciattarelli told Save Jersey on condition of anonymity, referring to the LG’s reluctance to support Obamacare’s repeal and strong-throated support for a regional cap and trade program at this month’s first debate.

“Toast” might be overstating it. Guadagno is still admittedly ahead in public and private polling, enjoys a name recognition edge, boasts more cash and is ahead in the battle for coveted county lines, too.

Team Ciattarelli doesn’t care, detaching and tossing the kitchen sink on Wednesday afternoon by demanding documentation from a closed state investigation into a Guadagno-related pension fraud accusation. 

The story relates to a years-old story by New Jersey Watchdog in which the journalist accused Guadagno of having made “made false and conflicting statements that enabled her chief officer, Michael Donovan, to collect an $85,000 a year pension in addition to his $87,500 salary.”  

“Republican voters deserve to know the findings of this investigation,” said Ciattarelli in a campaign press release resurrecting the issue.  “The Lt. Governor has a responsibility to clear the air on this troubling issue now. Republican voters need to know the truth. The fact is, if the Lt. Governor were to be the Republican nominee, Phil Murphy and the Democrats will hammer away at this issue relentlessly starting the day after the primary.”

Republicans (and Democrats) head to the polls to select their respective nominees on Tuesday, June 6th.