POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Can Guadagno close the gap in the final month of the race?

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

As October dawns, the differences in the Guadagno campaign and the Murphy campaign are becoming more stark. Republican nominee, Kim Guadagno, campaigned at a Boonton restaurant before a handful of campaign staff. Murphy has been joined by NBA Hall of Famers Bill Bradley and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and soon, President Barack Obama. But even with a recent poll shows her trailing Murphy by nearly 20 points, Guadagno remains thematically dogged.

“I’ve been critical of Phil Murphy’s efforts to raise taxes in any way,” she said Monday. “So he wants to raise income taxes. He wants to reinstate the estate tax. He wants to increase the sales tax. He will definitely increase the property taxes because he refuses to allow anyone to vote on the arbitration reform and the two percent arbitration cap, which in 2011, I have to say in 2011, everyone unanimously thought was a good idea.”

The campaign knows that high taxes are a top issue with voters, but Guadagno, just weeks from Election Day, has failed to move the needle. Even as critics begin to notice Democratic nominee Phil Murphy’s fuzzy answers to a report that showed salary caps on public safety employees is slowing local tax hikes, it’s been the unpopular governor who has bloodied Murphy’s nose with take downs like this.

“They never wanted the report released. And I can guarantee you that Ambassador Murphy never wanted the report released,” said Gov. Chris Christie last Friday. “Now he says, ‘Oh, it’s politics so I’m not going to respond to it?’ Let me tell you something, respond to the facts. Do you thinks it’s good or bad that $530 million in salaries has been saved by taxpayers? Do you think it’s good or bad that property taxes are $2.9 billion lower than they were before. Ambassador, just respond to the facts.”

Guadagno is no Christie, though, and some Republicans complain that she has been jabbing instead of throwing haymakers, reasoned when she should be partisan. On the Trump federal tax reform plan, for instance, which would eliminate deductions for state and local taxes – Guadagno seemed to either be holding back on what she knew about it, or just didn’t know much about it.

Asked if she thought the president’s proposed tax overhaul plan was good for New Jersey, she replied, “Not if it keeps that property tax reduction in it, no. But, if it includes an accommodation for the property tax deduction, then any time we can overhaul our tax code both on the federal level and, quite frankly on the state level, in a way that makes it more affordable to live in New Jersey, then yes.”

Certainly more reasoned than partisan, but is it inspiring voters? Polls suggest no. But the same poll shows that still 24 percent of voters are undecided, a high number so late in the race. Kim Guadagno only needs to pick up about 22 percent of those.