HAMILTON – If you stare too hard at the chandeliers here you go cross eyed, which might have created a unique perspective on an event that was auspiciously billed as a big rumble in the ballroom, with the two placards of the principals side by side on a big table onstage.
But, predictably, neither Republican Kim Guadagno nor Democrat Phil Murphy appeared onstage at the same time, mutually denying this 2017 State ELC Gubernatorial Reception crowd a chance to dissect how the presence of one candidate for governor might have rankled the other.
It started off friendly enough, 149 days until Election Day.
“We have too many toxic conversations to pretend we don’t like each other,” said Guadagno, who went first, who noted that she and Murphy both hail from Monmouth County and travel in similar circles. “That’s not what you’re going to see from me.”
Then she turned on the front-running Murphy.
“If we elect Phil Murphy governor, the only person who can afford to live here, will be Phil Murphy,” she said of her millionaire counterpart.
She also said, “We will stop the progress we have made, if we don’t stop Phil Murphy.”
Addressing the ballroom crammed with round tables, Guadagno talked about family, about being grounded, sprinkling her speech with references to each of her children.
“I’m not going to ask you to vote for me because of policy,” said the Republican nominee for Governor. “You need to know who you’re voting for, because I went through Sandy. I want you to know what’s in my heart. You like it or you don’t. Don’t leave anything on the table. I’m going to run on my record. I think my record’s pretty good.”
She made multiple references to the cellphone number she has widely distributed to constituents, many of them in the business community,many, she said, seated in the room here.
She made a direct appeal.
“Talk to the reporters for me, would you, because I worked really hard so families wouldn’t get pushed out of their homes,” said the LG, fleshing out the ally at the podium narrative – at Governor Chris Christie’s expense.
“I take the car, I don’t take the helicopter – you, see, why do I do that, it’s only going to get me in trouble,” she added.
Then she landed her first dig on Murphy, not yet – presumably – in the building or vicinity.
“The taxes on the programs put forward by my opponent will cost $50 billion,” Guadagno said. “Where’s that money coming from? It’s coming from you.”
Claiming the detrimental impact it would have on business, he slammed Murphy’s proposal for a $15 minimum wage.
“It’s frightening,” she said.
Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-14) was in the room.
Former Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-11) was in the room.
A Republican source at the door regarded InsiderNJ wearily, deflecting small talk about LG with shrugged shoulders.
“None of it will matter anyway,” he announced gloomily, his voice crumbling under a light jazz soundtrack that spilled out of the big room.
Reporters flocked around Guadagno after her speech to ask her about InsiderNJ’s breaking story about bounced State Party Chair candidate Doug Steinhardt. While she took those questions, Murphy entered and gave a friendly wave to her as allies ushered him into the ballroom that moments ago had heard from his rival.
The Democratic candidate addressed the same fork and knife clinking on plates desert crowd.
“With business and education more closely…[aligned], the sky’s the limit,” Murphy said. “I will invest in our infrastructure… that will ensure the connectivity between and within communities. We have all the tools right here under our very noses.”