Elected Officials Sound Off at South Jersey Forum

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

After Ray Lesniak addressed a South Jersey crowd from the stage and John Wisniewski did the same, Kim Guadagno set herself apart.

“When you come down to South Jersey, a place I’ve been one out of every three days for the last seven years, you know the people in the room. And you know they don’t want you standing up behind a podium telling you what to do,” she said.

Not present was Democrat Phil Murphy, the self-financing front-runner.

“Right now unfortunately in New Jersey, the Democratic Party believes in the golden rule — whoever has the gold rules,” Lesniak said.

Wisniewski, a Bernie Sanders supporter, warned that front-runners can stumble.

“We look back last year to the presidential election and we saw an effort to coronate one person, the Democratic nominee, and curiously the Democrats, not having learned from that lesson, decided that it worked so well for them they would try and do that same thing here in New Jersey this year,” he said.

Guadagno has called for an elected attorney general, less beholden to the governor.

Wisniewski said he agrees.

“It’s the one thing that Kim and I agree on. The attorney general of the state of New Jersey should not be responsive to the governor. The attorney general ought to be responsive to the people of the state of New Jersey. I believe had we had that, it wouldn’t have taken the federal U.S. Attorney’s Office to come in and prosecute under Bridgegate. We would have had something much sooner,” he said.

Lesniak touted the importance of tax incentives for creating economic development.

“I’m not a big fan of Gov. Christie. We disagree on a lot. But one thing we do agree on very, very strongly is the need for New Jersey to compete for jobs. While other states are giving tax credits — North Carolina, California, New York — we have to also do that,” Lesniak said.

Guadagno criticized having a four-person panel make all Transportation Trust Fund decisions.

“These four people — one will be picked by the Senate president, one will be picked by the head of the Assembly, one will be picked by the governor himself and one will be the DOT commissioner, meaning it will be picked by the governor. And those people will be making the decisions where your $2 billion a year in transportation funding will go. That is absolutely the worst public policy to come out of Trenton in decades,” she said.

Earlier there was a legislative panel, where we asked for some thoughts about Donald Trump.

“The president’s son-in-law and his wife go to services Friday night and sometimes on Saturday. Friday night and Saturday — that’s when all those wild tweets come out,” said Assemblyman David Wolfe.

“The other morning I’m in the shower. My wife’s going, ‘Everybody knew! Everybody knew.’ I’m like, ‘What, what, what?’ She was watching one of the morning shows. She says, ‘Everybody knew health care was complicated. The president is tweeting that nobody knew how complicated this was.’ Well, I don’t know where’s he’s been,” said Sen. Jim Whelan.

“I did not support the president last November. But as an American now, I want him to be successful because if he’s a success, our country is a success,” said Assemblyman Troy Singleton.

“I think a lot of the rhetoric we’re hearing, the terrible comments that are made about the office is uncalled for. I would never make it about President Obama’s administration. I don’t think it should be made about anybody’s administration. It’s disrespectful,” said Sen. Bob Singer.

That’s why they call it Sound Off.