GOP gubernatorial candidates Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) debated tonight at Stockton University for the first time, frequently clashing as they sized up the school funding formula, property taxes and their respective government records.
A CPA with an MBA, Ciattarelli made his case for new leadership in the New Jersey Republican Party, unencumbered by the pock-marked record of Governor Chris Christie, Guadagno’s top of the ticket ally.
“I am the only one who can beat Phil Murphy,” Ciattarelli said, looking into the NJTV camera, referring to the Democratic front-runner for Governor.
But Guadagno noted that Ciattarelli backed Christie’s presidential campaign and voted for him twice. The assemblyman said he he supported the notion of having a New Jerseyan serve in the White House because of the advantages that New Jersey could incur. Throughout the debate he criticized Guadagno for sitting by silently as the state debated important issues.
“She never said anything about North Jersey casinos,” Ciattarelli said.
“The lieutenant governor is elected the lieutenant governor not the governor,” Guadagno said, and claimed to have walked down the hall to confront Christie when she disagreed. Conversely, “I’ve never seen Jack Ciattarelli in Governor Christie’s office,” she said.
“I’m a citizen first,” Ciattarelli shot back. “I never had to walk down the hall to say ‘I disagree with the governor.'”
The pair tangled up on the gas tax after Guadagno – trying to press her case for being unlike the unpopular Christie – made the argument that her opponent supported one while in the legislature then voted against the 23 cent on the dollar hike to pay for the insolvent state Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).
“He was for the gas tax,” said the LG. “When I had the opportunity to oppose the gas tax, I did and I did it loudly.”
The assemblyman noted that he favored an incremental gas tax hike over a number of years, not an 11th hour Hail Mary 23-cent burden on the middle class and working poor. Guadagno’s opposition stance late in the game was”hypocritical and it’s not leadership.”
Ciattarelli said Guadagno went on radio only after his floor argument against the gas tax.
Both candidates favor a wait and see approach on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Guadagno said she wants New Jersey to reenter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Ciattarelli disagreed.
Guadagno repeatedly highlighted her service as the sheriff of Monmouth County.
Ciattarelli made his case as a businessman.
“I’m not rigid in my ideology,” he said. “I’m willing to compromise but not sacrifice my principals.”