NJ politics heating up ahead of November elections

Phil Murphy
Phil Murphy file photo

In a current political climate that is tumultuous at best, the citizens of New Jersey went to the polls in early June to replace poorly rated Governor Chris Christie. Both primary elections resulted in landslides in favor of current Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (Republican) and Phil Murphy (Democrat).

Murphy was recently endorsed by Garden State Equality, and was an executive with Goldman Sachs, and the United States Ambassador to Germany under former President Barack Obama. Like his rival, Murphy’s main campaign promise is to get New Jersey back on track.

Kim Guadagno in Hoboken earlier this year
Kim Guadagno in Hoboken earlier this year

Guadagno is New Jersey’s first Lieutenant Governor, appointed by Christie during his first term in 2009, after serving one year as Monmouth County Sheriff. She also served as secretary of state. Initially, the pair seemed to get along, but over the last four years, Guadagno has been more vocal about her differing views. In particular, she seemed to be more vocal as Christie made his failed bid to become President of the United States. She spoke out against Christie’s gas tax hike, his expansive, and expensive plans to renovate the state house, she supports legalizing marijuana, and she is pro-choice. She has also publicly spoken out against President Donald Trump, whose cabinet Christie had hopes of becoming part of.

Guadagno’s campaign hasn’t included Christie’s name, and she has said repeatedly, there are better days are ahead for New Jersey. She also took a swipe at the current governor, saying that she doesn’t travel in a helicopter. Christie has frequently come under fire for use of the State Police helicopter to ferry himself to his son’s baseball games, and most notably to go between Island Beach State Park and Trenton during the brief government shut down in early July.

Another of Guadagno’s campaign goals is to have the citizens of New Jersey regain their trust in Trenton. Previous governors have done little to keep the faith of New Jersey’s people, with campaign promises to not raise taxes broken, state pensions squandered in a stock market gamble, or were just plain lame ducks coasting through their terms. Predecessors aside, Christie has done plenty in the past eight years to damage public trust, with the most notable being the Bridgegate scandal that was a case of political revenge.

It may be tough for Guadagno to gain that trust she’s after with the bad will that Christie has stirred up with his policies, his arrogance, and virtually ignoring the state during his failed presidential bid. “Do I think that people are mad at the governor because he went to campaign all-round the country?” Guadagno asked in an interview with NJ Advance Media. “I think they’re mad at him for leaving them. But I’m running on my record. I think my record is pretty good.”

Where Guadagno portrays herself as the champion for trust, Murphy plays more of an outsider role. He has no part in special interest groups from Trenton, and aside from his stint as ambassador, he has largely stayed out of the political pool.

Both candidates are running on similar platforms, with both vowing reform to state spending and state pensions, improving New Jersey public schools, giving the middle class more breathing room on property, and school taxes, and in-state job growth.

Where they differ is in a matter of ensuring equal rights, particularly in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. Murphy has vowed to protect the rights of LGBT citizens, especially now that federal protections are being diluted or outright revoked by an indifferent president. Another difference is Murphy wants to improve service and funding for New Jersey Transit, and ending standardized testing for public schools, especially the PARCC tests.  Healthcare, affordable college educations for state residents, gun control reform, and improving law enforcement relationships with the public are all other items on Murphy’s agenda.  For Guadagno, she has expressed a desire to audit Trenton, and hold state lawmakers accountable for the problems that have plagued the state for years.

Come November, residents will have to choose between a candidate with a strong financial background versus a candidate with a political career overshadowed by an arrogant bully. While past candidates who eventually became governors had made promises to clean up the cesspool of New Jersey politics, few had even come close. Only time will tell if the lofty aspirations and promises of idealistic candidates can best the challenges of reality.

Phil Murphy: Murphy4nj.com.

Kim Guadagno: Kimfornj.com.