It’s on in Union: Guadagno Versus Ciattarelli for the Line

UNION – “Who told you that, Ciattarelli?” Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz asked when InsiderNJ said the GOP gubernatorial contest here appeared to favor the 16th District Assemblyman.

Munoz backs Ciattarelli’s rival, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, who arrived moments ago when the tires of a black SUV chopped the crescent shaped drive in front of the STEM Building here at Kean University.

“Sorry, I’m late,” said the LG as she surfaced amid fellow Republicans at a packed convention.

Ciattarelli and his wife Melinda mingled in a crowd that included veteran delegate John Simone and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-21).

Bramnick backs Ciattarelli, or so it appears.

Then there was state Senator Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21).

Asked whom he supports for governor, he held up food at the buffet table and grinned.

Nearby, with a ring of people around him, stood veteran GOP power player Mike DuHaime, principal of Mecury and Christie’s longtime campaign strategist.

Chairman Glenn Mortimer began the convention by slamming Democrats, whose 21 bosses, he said, selected a candidate – former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy – based on the contributions Murphy made to the party.

“They claim to be the party off the working man,” cracked Mortimer to laughs.

Various delegates used the names Murphy and Corzine interchangeably.

Chairman Mortimer

“The Democrats have controlled the legislature for 15 years. Higher taxes. More regulation and more people fleeing this state,” Bramnick said.

Ciattarelli confessed to Trenton rivaling hell if not for the presence of Bramnick, then gave a robust speech to the delegates.

Munoz introduced Guadagno.

“One of my highlights in Trenton has been working in Trenton with Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno,” the assemblywoman said.

Guadagno took the stage.

“It’s amazing that this room is as full as it is,” she marveled at the packed auditorium. “This is what they call March madness in New Jersey. It works. It gives us a chance to see all of you. For the last eight years I have campaigned up and down the state of New Jersey. Including a stop for you, Jack, and your running mate, Donna Simon. That’s how you get to know people – and then you get a chance to make a difference in their lives. I have spent the last eight years driving.

The LG’s arrival.

“Do you get the joke? You know, the helicopter?”

It was a friendly – apparently – slap at Governor Chris Christie.

Nervous laughter sounded.

Guadagno told the story of her life as a pro – a federal prosecutor in the racketeering squad – and mother of three, a commissioner in Monmouth Beach, sheriff of Monmouth County, and then the state’s first lieutenant governor.

“Make people hope again,” Guadagno said. It was a strong speech, exceeding expectations. Not perceived to be a strong public speaker, she was supposed to flop at this part of the game where Ciattarelli generally does better, but the LG delivered tonight, fighting off the mat on the same week that her rival appeared to gain momentum with a Monday win in Burlington County.

“Anything we do in New Jersey to cut taxes is an idea worth considering and worth fighting for,” she said, and promised to cut Abbott aid to Jersey City and Hoboken.

“Pick a fight with a pen,” she promised. “That is what I think we need in November. I can’t think of a greater contrast than a military mom, a former law enforcement official and someone who has run this government. We cannot afford inexperienced people.”

In caucus protective mode: Bramnick.

On Friday she will be in Miami, Florida raising money. Outspent 3-1 in 2009 by Corzine when she ran with Christie, Guadagno said she can do it again against Murphy. She made the case that she provides the best contrast to Murphy.

This was Ciattarelli versus Guadagno only.

Businessman Joe Rullo didn’t participate in this convention. Neither did Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers.

Powerful Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore observed the process with interest in the back of the auditorium. He’s in with Kim.

“She gave a good speech,” the chairman affirmed.

In  the back of the auditorium while the delegates voted, Guadagno told InsiderNJ when asked whom she thought would win, “It’s a toss up. It’s very close. It’s fun.”

Senator Kean.
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