By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
If you want to create excitement, pack a ton of people into a room meant for half a ton.
That’s what Kim Guadagno did this morning at a seaside Mexican restaurant in Keansburg, Monmouth County.
New Jersey’s first ever lieutenant governor has decided to run for the top job.
“I’m talking about connecting with the working families of this state. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last seven years and I am so very proud of my record,” she said.
Guadagno has been Gov. Chris Christie’s liaison to the business community and held the cabinet position secretary of state.
Her trademark has been her willingness, even eagerness, to give out her cell phone number at public events, as the restaurant owner said in describing how she helped his business recover from Superstorm Sandy.
“Beautiful lady comes out. She says, ‘My name is Kim Guadagno, I’m your lieutenant governor, and if there’s any problem, I’m giving you my number — you guys pay for it,'” La Playa owner Leo Cervantes said.
“Every one of us will say when there’s a problem, we’ll just call Kim,” said Monmouth County Sheriff and Monmouth County Republican Party Chair Shaun Golden.
“You pay for my cell phone. You should have access to my cell phone,” Guadagno said.
A moderate Republican who did not support Donald Trump, Guadagno today talked about lowering taxes, doing better on pensions and foreclosures, and on poverty.
The Democrats’ go-to solution, she said, is always to raise taxes.
“Some of the candidates for governor have already promised to raise your taxes on the most taxed people in the country. We can do better,” Guadagno said.
She described a financially challenging childhood, although her father would later come to own several television stations, according to his obituary.
“As a child I learned a simple and lasting lesson that when you can’t pay your bills, you don’t keep spending money. My mom and dad, when he lost his job, cut way back. There were no new cars, there were no new vacations. I’ll never forget when my mother opened her pocketbook and cut up every single one of her credit cards because there simply wasn’t any money,” Guadagno said.
That frugality had her criticizing Christie’s planned $300 million State House renovation.
“We simply do not have the money to turn the State House into the Palace of Versailles,” Guadagno said.
And she sounded like she’s taking a stand against a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel.
“We cannot afford to borrow billions of dollars to build a new rail line when our roads and our bridges are crumbling,” she said.
And she took one other subtle swipe at Christie.
“You want your governor to be committed to making New Jersey a place for families, who strives to do better, who answers the phone, who is there in a crisis, who walks in your shoes, who cares fearlessly and without exception about you and only you,” she said.
Guadagno never mentioned Christie by name but implied things have gotten better during his two terms and they can get better still. In fact, that’s her campaign slogan: better.