By Art Gallagher
I’m voting for Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno in the Republican Primary tomorrow because I’m convinced she’s the only candidate in the field who can defeat former Goldman Sachs banker Phil Murphy, the likely Democrat nominee, in November and prevent the return of unbridled government spending and taxation that will occur if Democrats regain control of the State Executive branch.
Guadagno’s primary campaign has been brilliant in its simplicity. She has deftly managed to put distance between herself and Governor Chris Christie while keeping her eye on the prize….winning the gubernatorial nomination. Kim has demonstrated that she knows that she is out to win an election, not to sell investors on a business plan. She’s presented herself as likeable, relatable and wanting to make New Jersey “Better.” Her appeal is emotional, not cerebral.
The most likeable candidate is going to win in November.
I like Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli’s plan a lot. Especially his demonstration of the inequities in our current school funding formula…the principle driver of our highest in the nation property taxes. But Jack has demonstrated that he can’t sell his plan. I pay more attention to these things than most New Jersey voters and I didn’t understand his plan until I spent an hour with Jack, along with 40 other voters who have already made up their minds, in Highlands on Saturday.
Several pundits have recently said that Ciattarelli has run brilliant campaign. Those pundits have never run a successful campaign. They’re buying the spin that Ciattarelli’s team is selling them. Jack’s campaign has been deeply flawed.
Jack has done a poor job introducing himself to the voters. To the extent that he has introduced himself, he does not come across as likeable or relatable. He comes across as a bossy accountant. Maybe he has done a good job introducing himself. A bossy accountant can’t beat an affable banker in November.
Jack’s failure to sell himself and his plan allowed the Guadagno campaign to define him as “High Tax Jack.” That’s not a fair characterization, but it is a very effective winning message.
Ciattarelli’s hits on Guadagno have been just plain dumb. He’s attempted to hang Christie’s 18% approval ratings on Kim. Of the 18% of New Jersey voters who still approve of Christie’s job performance, how many of them are likely Republican primary voters? Most of them, I’d bet.
New Jersey voters will not blame Guadagno for Christie for the same reason most New Jersey voters believe Christie knew what was going on in Bridgegate. New Jersey believes Christie is a control freak.
New Jersey doesn’t disapprove of Christie because of his policies. They disapprove of him because he abandoned his post to run for president rather than fight to implement his policies. Christie’s tenure in Trenton is a failure only relative his promise. We hired him to turn the place upside down. He held the line, but he quit trying to turn the place upside down about two years into his first term. Voters are not going to blame Kim for that.
Guadagno should incorporate Ciattarelli’s plan into her general election campaign. Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick should require that their candidates, especially in Democrat and swing districts, present Jack’s demonstration of the school funding formula inequities to everyone who will listen between now and November 7.
I don’t know if Ciattarelli has it him to play second fiddle. If he does, and if he and Kim can quickly form a trusting partnership, putting Jack on the ticket as the LG candidate would quickly unite the Party and improve the chances of a Republican victory in November. I hope they can do it.