POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Guadagno joins law firm, leaving political life behind

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

A fresh start for a Republican standard-bearer. It’s been nearly six months since the state’s first lieutenant governor was defeated by Phil Murphy for the top job. Now Kim Guadagno’s got a new gig. Senior Correspondent Brenda Flanagan caught up with her.

Flanagan: People have been wondering what you’re going to be doing after spending eight years as lieutenant governor with Chris Christie and coming in second to Phil Murphy. We find out now you’ve got a brand new job. You are going into the private sector. You’re going to be an attorney with Connell Foley, a partner. Congratulations.

Guadagno: Thank you very much. I’m very excited to start with the firm. They are great.

Flanagan: Why jump back into private practice?

Guadagno: To pretty much do what I’ve said I would be doing. I’ve gave many, many speeches to young people about how to get involved in politics and I always say get the best possible education you can, do what you love to do, and then when the times comes, do your public service. So, I got a law degree. I practice law. I had a chance to get involved in public service as a commissioner, a sheriff and then lieutenant governor. And with you’re done with your public service, go back to doing what you love in the first place. I had opportunities, nonprofits, I could have done some economic development work.

Flanagan: Why get out of politics?

Guadagno: You have to earn a living.

Flanagan: You called yourself a recovering politician.

Guadagno: I did at one point call myself a Republican. But, it’s really to going back and doing what you love to do. I don’t think public service should be a career. I think public service should be something you do when you find something you believe in and you get an opportunity. That’s public service, and you serve. I think there was a time in my life where I had the ability to do that, and I had family support to do that, quite frankly. Now, in the next time of my life, it’s time to do what I love to do which is practice with a group of men and women that really care about their clients. Practice with them in areas that they’re really good at — real estate, commercial litigation, white collar internal investigations. All of that is right up my ally as a lawyer for the last 30 years.

Flanagan: We’ve seen a wave of women who are jumping into politics. Essentially twice as many seem to have registered to run for the House back in 2012, and I think by 3:1 the ratio is most of them are blue, they’re Democrats. Why do you think, first of all, why are women running, and why aren’t more Republican women running?

Guadagno: Well I hope we’re running for the same reason I ran, and that is because they believe in something and they want to give back. That’s why I ran. That’s why I think these women are running. I don’t know why red or blue makes any difference at all. I’m just happy to have woman out there. Women are sitting at the table to have a different perspective. I’m proud to say that two Republican woman I know here in New Jersey are running. One is a 24-year-old who has decided to run, that use to be in my office. And also another woman Sarah Neibart who is now the youngest councilperson in Mendham Township, or in the state. Both are Republican, both are woman and both are good friends of mine. I’m proud of that.

Flanagan: What role do you think President Trump might have played in galvanizing women to run, and what impact do you think he might have on the congressional races in 2018 and Jersey?

Guadagno: Well, he’s certainly going to have an impact on the congressional races, it would be disingenuous to say anything else. But, in terms of women I don’t think that a president of the United States influences women on the ground. I think women on the ground have to be motivated on the issues. I believe that’s why I ran. I was motivated by the issues. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice from your family and your job. You don’t do it because you like or dislike a president. You do it because you have something you believe in enough in order to stand up and be heard.

Flanagan: What do you think about Phil Murphy?

Guadagno: Phil Murphy and I are friends. I don’t believe people know this, but he lives six miles from my house. His wife, Tammy, was my son’s class mom. The kids went to school together. So, we’ve been at least hands-off friends. I don’t think you saw any of that acrimony during the election that you would normally see. We just disagree on the issues. I think he’s doing what he said he was going to do. I disagree with those things.

Flanagan: Most significant challenge you think he faces?

Guadagno: His other Democrat brothers and sisters. I think we’ve seen a lot of that already.

Flanagan: You’re talking about the leadership in Trenton?

Guadagno: From my outside perspective, like I’ve told you before, I’m a recovering politician. I am focusing my life on the next chapter and that is to be a great partner here at Connell Foley. But I do believe Trenton is going to have a lot of challenges over the next couple of weeks to get their balanced budget by end of June.

Flanagan: What about the former governor? When was the last time you chatted with Chris Christie?

Guadagno: With Gov. Christie, we texted on my birthday. My birthday was the 13th, and so we texted on my birthday.

Flanagan: Do you talk often?

Guadagno: Well, you know we text a lot. Always have. We’ve always texted a lot.

Flanagan: What’s the best thing about being out of politics?

Guadagno: The best thing about being out of politics is going to work at a firm like Connell Foley and loving it. Having done what I said I was going to do, serve and then go back and do what you love. And then spending much more time with my family and being able to pick and choose the causes that I believe in. I’m on the board of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Foundation and doing a capital campaign with them, thank you for letting me get that in.

Flanagan: And you kept your cell phone number?

Guadagno: And I did keep my cell phone number. I think we should do that. I think if you put your money where your mouth is, keep your cell phone number so you are accessible.