A former actor who owns a landscaping business and shows up at campaign events in a leather jacket, Joe Rullo of Ocean County exudes passion for his long-shot GOP gubernatorial candidacy and is hardly freaking out right now because he hasn’t won any county party organization lines.
He never expected to win any lines, which to date have mostly gone to the party organization favorite to win the Republican nomination for governor: LG Kim Guadagno. But he craves the platform from which to talk about the issues he says preoccupy voters – and won’t shirk from every opportunity.
“I’m an outsider with common sense solutions to fix NJ running against career politicians who are all part of the problem,” Rullo told InsiderNJ following his perfomance last night in a debate sponsored by the Midddlesex Young Republicans.
It was a typical Rullo performance. On more than one occasion he rose and stepped out from behind the dais and spoke directly to the crowd.
“[They are] politicians who until now have been silent on most of the issues facing NJ and now want to address for your vote,” he explained. “I proposed to fix pension eliminating fees and earmarking a portion of marijuana revenue towards payments. My proposals to veto all taxes, lower property taxes, cut waste, consolidate highway authorities & school purchases & superintendents, dissolve TTF, and fire fat cat political hacks is what NJ wants.
“Regardless of conventions by establishment career politicians who decided Kim was there candidate years ago the people will ultimately decide in June,” he added. “Although many believe Kim can’t win and are upset she didn’t vote Trump, the pressure by establishment prevails in rigged conventions. I predict a message will be sent loud and clear in November to Drain The Swamp In Trenton of career politicians resulting in an upset win for our campaign. The Democrats control NJ areas like Hudson, Essex, Mercer, Passaic, and Camden because the GOP party bosses cut deals with both sides.”
Rullo remembers the 2014 Republican Primary for U.S. Senate, when the powerful Ocean County GOP tapped contractor Brian Goldberg and appeared to end the contest. There was too much muscle in Ocean for a policy wonk retread like Jeff Bell to overcome, or so ran the conventional wisdom at the time. But Bell beat Goldberg in a low-turnout primary election for the right to face U.S. Senator Cory Booker: 42,728 to 36,266.
Experts would argue that Guadagno is no Goldberg, who was less known than Bell, who had at least run for senate once before, albeit all the way back in 1978. But Rullo says the LG is not only anchored to an unsuccessful governor but profoundly overconfident – and insists that by contrast he has grassroots fever at precisely that Trumpified moment in his party.
“Kim is silent on every issue that matters and came out of the gate one year and a half later than us. We have a solid base that will not be swayed by the other ladder climbing career politicians,” he said. “I believe the Lt Governor is avoiding the issues with gimmicks. She refuses to repeal the gas tax, speak on sanctuary cities, stand up for carry conceal, and provide any details of her plan to fix NJ. She flip flops with debate by committing then refusing to debate. There are way more important issues in this state to deal with she is avoiding. If the Lt Governor was an elected position she would lose for being silent.
“We never participated in convention process and establishment activities thinking we would get a line, but to persuade a percentage to add to our base,” Rullo added.