By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
In Gov. Chris Christie’s absence, Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno spoke at the League of Municipalities luncheon and immediately made the audience take notice.
“I am — and the women in the room will understand this — the acting governor, the lieutenant governor and the 33rd secretary of state. I get one salary and no pension. The women laughed. The men did not. Hee, right over your heads,” Guadagno said.
To a room full of local officials, she had a message.
“We have to reach out to you in this room, we have to make a connection to you in this room, because that’s what will make us stronger,” Guadagno said.
Senate President Steve Sweeney invoked a similar theme.
“You know, two weeks ago I think the people of this state sent a very very strong message. They like bipartisan government. They want us to work together to get things done,” Sweeney said.
Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford welcomed the guests two weeks after a Republican beat him in his quest for a fourth term.
“As I depart from you, let me just on a personal note, say thank you to all of those who have befriended me over the years,” Langford said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s widow Bonnie accepted an award on behalf of her late husband.
“Frank was Jewish, but when it came to New Jersey, he loved pork. And as you all know he did bring home the bacon,” she said.
But it was Guadagno who made the biggest impact. On a dais full of former governors, cabinet officers, legislative leaders, she pushed the Christie administration’s agenda.
“So we have cut business taxes, we’ve cut regulations. The next thing you’re gonna see us fight about — and it will be a fair fight, I suspect — is a real income tax reduction for all of us,” Guadagno said.
Sweeney threw a wet blanket on that.
“Show me where the money is. Let’s be responsible,” he said.
But her humor got him.
“And I was in this room four years ago, you guys didn’t even have a seat for me, you didn’t know what to do with the lieutenant governor. I wasn’t up here with the rest of you. I was somewhere in the back of the room, I really was. Hello, I’m the lieutenant governor. Steve, what do you think of me being the lieutenant governor now?” Guadagno asked.
Even some Democrats were impressed.
When asked if Guadagno was good, Brendan Gill said, “Absolutely. Good. Funny. And I enjoyed it.”
With the governor’s new heavier travel schedule, we may be seeing more of the lieutenant governor, and she won’t likely be in the back of the room any more.