Guadagno taps Carlos Rendo as lieutenant governor pick

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

At a Cuban restaurant in West New York, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno introduced her running mate, Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo, with a promise to make New Jersey, if not great again, just affordable again.

“My running mate is a man who understands all that,” Guadagno said.

Rendo was two when his family left Cuba. His father worked at the restaurant as a janitor, his mother was a factory worker.

“As a young boy, my family was forced to flee Cuba and the atrocities of the Castro regime and we came to this country only with the clothes on our back. And today I stand before you as living proof that it is still possible to achieve the American Dream,” Rendo said.

He echoed Guadagno’s views on keeping taxes low.

“I love this state, but I’ve watched too many of my neighbors and local businesses leave because they can’t afford it anymore. It needs to stop, and Kim Guadagno is our best hope to stop that,” he said.

Guadagno said the election in November offers a clear choice.

“Phil Murphy has proposed to raise taxes on everyone. There is a tax for everyone in his proposals — business taxes, income taxes, estate taxes, sales taxes. He has to raise taxes because he has promised everyone everything. We put a pen to it. It is approximately $75 billion more in new government spending,” Guadagno said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy announced his running mate, former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

Rendo issued Oliver a warning.

“For Phil to nominate a lieutenant governor who went on an unauthorized trip to Cuba, the same repressive regime my family and I fled that is now harboring a cop-killer, is inexcusable,” Rendo said.

That comment was in reference to the 1973 murder of a state trooper by Joanne Chesimard, saying we need to hold her accountable.

Republicans in the room applauded the selection of Rendo.

“He is a new kind of face for the Republican Party,” Sen. Gerry Cardinale, who represents parts of Bergen and Passaic counties, said.

“What I see here is what happened in the 1980s with Tom Kean. He brought everybody in — not just minorities, not just Hispanics, but the blacks, the Asians,” Jose Arango, chairman of the Hudson County Republican Party, said.

“It’s a statement that this campaign and this candidate respect Bergen County, understand it’s the number one county in the state by population,” Bergen County Republican Chairman Paul DiGaetano said.

Gov. Chris Christie said he’s only met Rendo twice and it’s smart to choose a mayor instead of a Trenton insider. Christie also downplayed its significance.

“Running mates don’t matter. Noone is going to vote for Phil Murphy because of Sheila Oliver, except Sheila Oliver and her family, that’s it. No one is voting for Kim Guadagno because she apparently has picked Mayor Rendo. Running mates have zero to do with that,” Christie said.

The Murphy campaign released a statement from Sheila Oliver today that talked about the “failures of Chris Christie and Kim Guadagno,” adding “eight years is enough.”

But, Guadagno says the choice is between higher taxes and no higher taxes, and she’s confident no higher taxes will win the day.

“I don’t think it’s a close call. I think people in November are going to vote their pocketbooks. I trust they’re going to vote their pocketbooks. I don’t think people in November care about who the governor is or was, or who the president is. I think they’re going to vote  their pocketbooks. I’m going to call on them to vote their pocketbooks. We’re going to campaign hard for the next 103 days,” she said.

The Guadagno camp hopes that the selection of a young Cuban-American mayor will play well in various parts of the state. It was clear from the comments echoed at the press conference that the Republican ticket is all about taxes and affordability.