Inside a volunteer firehouse in Hazlet, Kim Guadagno was on home turf. About 75 first responders turned out to hear the Republican candidate for governor, who was once the Monmouth County sheriff.
Her running mate Carlos Rendo was with her.
The statewide police and fire unions have already endorsed her Democratic opponent Phil Murphy, but Guadagno said they did so prematurely and on a false promise.
“If Phil Murphy, as I suspect he did, promised to fully fund the pensions for our law enforcement, police and fire, if he promised to fully fund the pensions and fully fund the health care, then last night he took that promise back. Last night, he said he would not fully fund that pension, and last night he said he would take the savings from your health care pensions and spend it some other way.” she said.
Guadagno was referring to an article posted last night on Observer New Jersey, in which Murphy’s spokesperson, Derek Roseman, said Murphy would continue the 10-year ramp up to full pension funding that Gov. Chris Christie and state Democrats have been following.
“The pension issue for first responders is different than the pension issues for the CWA and for the teachers union. They should be separate. They should be standalone. You should get your COLAs [Cost-of-Living Adjustment] back and you should get it in a way that’s fair, and honest and transparent,” said Guadagno.
The article also explains how Murphy plans to phase in some of his other spending goals.
“You have to decide whether Phil Murphy is going to keep his promises, fully fund pre-K. He took that back last night. Fully fund K-12 education, he took that back last night. Free college education, he took that back yesterday. Fully fund your pensions, he took that back yesterday. Fully fund your health care, he took that back yesterday. And his staff proudly announced he’s going to increase your taxes $1.3 billion,” she said.
Murphy’s spokesman replied, “No one can take Guadagno’s numbers at face value given her and Christie’s mismanagement of state finances.”
But she persisted.
“You can’t trust all the promises he made because last night he took them all back or part of them back,” Guadagno said.
For his part, the Republican lieutenant governor candidate Rendo called the Democratic ticket of Murphy and Sheila Oliver part of the radical left and soft on crime.
“We’re going to release criminals from jail after these men and women work day and night to put them in there. They get convicted and then they get released? How is that reasonable? How is that good policy? See, the Murphy-Oliver ticket does not think things out. They pander to get the vote,” said Rendo.
A number of local officials were in the room to support Guadagno.
“I think things are progressing and looking good. Things are getting much better. We’re getting a much better feeling here in the state,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Tom Arnone.
“I think Kim’s got great momentum. We’re big fans of hers here in Hazlet,” said Hazlet Mayor Sue Kiley.
“I’m optimistic. I know it’s going to be a tough uphill battle but I think not too many people know much about Phil Murphy. He hasn’t really been around the state that long,” said the mayor of Fair Lawn, John Cosgrove.
The audience seemed receptive to her message.
“I like what she had to say, compared to Murphy. I do,” said Matawan resident Ray Bassford.
Guadgano took questions from reporters.
When Guadagno was asked how she would push back against the widespread perception that Phil Murphy is way ahead, Guadagno responded, “It’s easy. I look at my polls and I know those polls are accurate. They show nine percent in June and when you put an informed electorate which all of you, when you put a Morgan Sax billionaire whose promised to raise your taxes up against a former sheriff who’s promised to raise your axes, I win.”
Guadagno did her best to stick it to Murphy in Hazlet. It’s only mid-August and the governor’s race feels fully engaged. Things should only get more interesting from here.