By David Cruz
It wasn’t quite a joint appearance. In fact, Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy were never in the room at the same time. By design, evidently. But, as a first look at the two major party candidates for governor in this very early state of the campaign, it was a display of contrasts in substance – and style.
Guadagno, awkwardly folksy.
“You used to be able to have a lot of fun, now you can’t have any fun at all because everybody micromanages it, second guesses it. I don’t care,” she remarked after a joke. “You like me or you don’t.”
Murphy, awkwardly professorial.
“I understand that this meeting has traditionally been the first official event of the general election campaign and I do find that very fitting, especially given the myriad challenges we face as a state,” he began, dryly.
In theory the NJBIA would seem to represent home turf for Guadagno, whose portfolio as the state’s number two has been heavy with business development around the state. For Murphy, his time as a Goldman Sachs executive notwithstanding, he had to sell an agenda chock full of items that will be paid for in part by the more affluent and by the business community. In other words, these people. Guadagno knows this community well.
“You can’t afford to live here anymore,” she told them. “The taxes on the programs that my opponent will talk to you about will cost roughly $50 billion. The budget is 35 billion. Where’s that money coming from? Take a look around. It’s coming from you.”
Asked about the Republican’s math later, Murphy responded “That sounds like alt math to me.”
“I wholly reject the myth that lifting up employees and giving them a pathway to the middle class through higher wages, expanded educational opportunities and stronger workplace protections kills jobs,” he told the mostly silent crowd. “It is simply not true. It is a false choice.”
“I said it the night of the primary and I’ll say it again tonight. If we elect Phil Murphy governor, the only person who will be able to afford to live here is Phil Murphy,” responded Guadagno, adding. “Come on, you can have a sense of humor, that was funny.”
That was as close to an audience reaction as either candidate received on a night that under-performed on drama, but confirmed that there is a genuine choice – political, philosophical and economic – to be made in the fall.