For a woman who’s only a heartbeat, or a presidential campaign, away from the governorship of New Jersey, not much is known about Kim Guadagno.
For the past four years, the lieutenant governor has cultivated an image as a staunch adjutant to Gov. Chris Christie, appearing dutifully -- but silently -- at his side at press conferences but leaving voters without much of a clue as to who she is or what she does.
Advisories for her appearances at ribbon cuttings, awards presentations, and school visits routinely state that the events are open to the press but that there is no “availability,” meaning she won’t take questions from reporters.
Her reluctance to speak to the media extends even to the current gubernatorial campaign, in which she is running for another four years as Christie’s second in command, a position that would take on increasing importance if, as widely expected, the governor decides to run for president.
With the Republican governor’s apparently unassailable lead in the polls, that would leave Guadagno as New Jersey’s chief executive for the extended periods when Christie would be out of state.
Guadagno’s campaign staff declined two requests for an interview with NJ Spotlight for this story, saying only that her schedule was too tight to allow time for a discussion in person or by phone.
Asked instead to respond to a list of emailed questions about her achievements in office so far, and her hopes for another term, her office provided only generic campaign material.
“As you would expect, with the Sandy anniversary and a campaign bus tour on the horizon, scheduling is extraordinarily tight,” Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the Christie campaign, wrote in an email on October 24.
Roberts accused NJ Spotlight of imposing a “very abbreviated timeline” on its request for the interview, and denied that Guadagno is trying to avoid publicity.
“Your premise of someone who is not well known, I would hope would be given appropriate context,” he wrote. “Not only with respect to other figures in state government leadership, but also with the amount of public events and initiatives she has in fact been a part of.”
Asked why Guadagno does not normally make herself available to the press at her public appearances, Roberts said those events “are not press conferences or do not lend themselves from a logistical perspective for taking questions from the press.”
Although her appearances don’t usually allow time for a formal question-and-answer session with the press, Guadagno “often” speaks informally to reporters at public events, Roberts said. He said he has responded similarly to other news organizations that have “furthered this odd narrative of nonavailability.”
But there's nothing odd about the narrative to Sarah Gonzalez, a radio reporter for WNYC/NJPR. When asked about Guadagno at the last debate, Christie said that reporters simply don't turn up at her events. So Gonzalez attended an event and, to which the lieutenant governor replied, "No availability means no availability."
By contrast, campaign events by Democratic challenger Barbara Buono and her running mate Milly Silva routinely include press availability. On October 22, for example, their schedule included six events in six counties, all of which had press availability.