Primary winners kick off campaigns with events highlighting legislative priorities

By Brenda Flanagan

“It’s not just money. Lives are at stake here,” said Phil Murphy.

Phil Murphy’s diagnosis: women’s health in New Jersey is in critical condition with Planned Parenthood’s suffering from traumatic budget cuts, including $50 million since 2010 under Gov. Chris Christie that forced six centers to close. On his first day campaigning for governor, the Democrat connected the political dots with emphasis.

“The cumulative cut in funding now under Gov. Christie, and by the way this is not gratuitous this is a fact, and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, this is their administration, let there be no doubt about that,” Murphy said.

Planned Parenthood says Jersey’s seen a 35 percent spike in sexually transmitted diseases that the CDC ascribes to a reduction in health care services. Breast and cervical cancer rates for minority women have also increased.

“These services were always funded so low-income women across the state could get access to reproductive health care. Gov. Christie, when he came into office, he eliminated the funding,” said Christine Sedovy, legislative and political director for Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ.

“What happens to those people who now don’t have care? And you can look at the statistics, its obviously been devastating and it’s imperative we restore state funding to family planning health care,” former Planned Parenthood patient Mary DiDato said.

“We’ll find the money, period, full stop. And we’ll fund Planned Parenthood. That part I get,” said Murphy.

Murphy hammered the anti-Christie, anti-Donald Trump campaign lines. Both the governor and president remain deeply unpopular with most New Jersey voters and he again made the Guadagno connection.

“She was trying, it sounded to me, to run as far as she could from the governor. That’s going to be hard for her to do as his wing man for the last seven and a half years,” Murphy said.

Meanwhile, Guadagno found a friendly South Jersey kitchen for her first campaign stop and focused on her pledge to cut property taxes or not seek a second term. Residents described their pain.

“Unfortunately the taxes, health care costs and all are way eating into our overhead,” Evesham resident Rennie Wessner said.

“So many of us are born and raised here, we don’t want to leave. We don’t want our parents to leave, but unfortunately our parents are forced to leave because they can’t afford to stay here anymore,” said Evesham Mayor Randy Brown.

“That’s what this campaign is about,” said Guadagno. “It’s quite simply making it affordable for people to stay in New Jersey again. We have a real contrast going into November whether you want to see your taxes continue to go up or whether you really want to start to do something about it.”

Evesham’s average property tax bill runs $4,855 and Guadagno claimed her so-called “circuit-breaker” plan could save a family earning $80,000 more than $1,300 on their tax bill.

“Trenton would have to find the money to send it back to you, so that you would not be losing any money, so that you wouldn’t be yelling at the mayor,” Guadagno said.

Guadagno’s plan comes with a $1.5 billion price tag and she would pay for it by auditing government — cutting waste — and that could mean more layoffs on top of the 11,000 state jobs that Christie has already cut.

“Anything that we have to do to make sure people … a performance audit is a performance audit! If you’re not doing your job and we’re paying you then we shouldn’t be paying you!” Guadagno said.

Guadagno says she doesn’t consider Christie to be a political albatross, but she doesn’t mention his name unless asked about him by reporters. Nevertheless, voters will hear that name a lot from Phil Murphy.