BAYONNE – Jack Ciattarelli had just finished his stump speech at the Broadway Diner, lamenting how unruly crowds prompted some towns along the Jersey Shore to cancel July 4 fireworks. He said police have been so criticized of late, they’re reluctant to do their jobs properly.
This is a key part of his spiel, but on this Tuesday morning in deep blue Hudson County, Ciattarelli walked – literally – into some good luck. Leaving the diner for a short journey down the block, he entered a coffee shop and – presto – encountered two Bayonne police officers.
No, this wasn’t a plant, given the fact one of the young officers didn’t seem to know Ciattarelli was running for governor.
But it gave the Republican candidate a splendid opportunity to tout his pro-police credentials.
“We’re on your side,” he said, shaking hands with the cops. He explained that he opposes ending immunity protection for police and civilian review boards. He also pledged to “reform bail reform.”
Bayonne and Hudson County may be an odd place for a Republican, but Ciattarelli likes going everywhere, or so he says. Just a few days ago, he was in heavily-Democratic Camden.
Jennifer Zinone, who runs the Ciattarelli campaign in Hudson, said, “Everybody already dismisses Bayonne as too blue.”
There may be good reasons for that.
Joe Biden won here last year by about 6,000 votes and in 2017, Phil Murphy beat Republican Kim Guadagno in Bayonne by more than 2-1.
But there’s also 2013. That’s when Chris Christie on his way to a landslide win actually carried Bayonne by a small margin. That can give some comfort to Ciattarelli, but not that much. No one suggests Ciattarelli is heading to a landslide win. Still, Zinone said she hopes people will vote their conscience.
About 25 to 30 people were assembled in the diner’s back room when the candidate arrived. One woman said she was a Democrat, but she wanted to listen to Ciattarelli because, “I’m not a sheep.”
Another attendee buttonholed Ciattarelli to say he agrees with the Republican’s qualms about starting sex education too early in school. A young man on hand said he’s a high school student and that he doesn’t like what he called the “homosexual curriculum.”
Ciattarelli in his remarks steered clear of any provocative statement on the topic, saying only that there are “certain conversations” that should take place at home, not the classroom.
Sticking with cultural issues, Ciattarelli brought up the recent brouhaha in Randolph, Morris County, where the school board briefly took Columbus Day off the school calendar in favor of Indigenous People’s Day. The crowd may not have been familiar with the issue, but the candidate left no doubt where his administration would stand.
“We’ll continue to have Christopher Columbus Day in New Jersey,” he proclaimed.
That out of the way, we moved on to property taxes, a perennial state issue. Ciattarelli faulted Murphy for not talking enough about lowering property taxes. He said he wants to do that by creating a new school aid formula.
Good luck with that. The largest chunk of the property tax dollar goes to support local schools, but devising a more equitable aid formula has bedeviled lawmakers from both parties for years.
Related to property taxes, Ciattarelli also faulted Murphy and the president for not ending the $10,000 federal tax deduction cap for state and local taxes. One understands the politics of it all,.but it’s Republicans in Congress who oppose eliminating the cap, not Democrats. The latest plan is for Dems to get rid of the cap through a legislative process known as reconciliation.
One thing that didn’t come up was Diane Allen, Ciattarelli’s choice for lieutenant governor.
Asked why Allen wasn’t at the diner with him today, a coy Ciattarelli feigned ignorance.
He said only there will be an announcement “tomorrow.”