FLORHAM PARK – Carolyn Caggiano knows something about Jack Ciattarelli. She went to Seton Hall University with him more than 30 years ago.
Those hoping for tales of untoward behavior by college student Ciattarelli are going to be disappointed.
“He was a terrific guy, a lot of personality,” Caggiano said today as she munched on a lunch time salad at Nonna’s Pizza & Italian restaurant.
This was not an idle conversation.
Caggiano was there to see her old college friend during a gubernatorial candidate “meet and greet.”
Ciattarelli was well-received as he hopped from table to table, asking diners where they lived and making small talk.
He told a guy wearing a Yankee cap that he shared his allegiance. This also gave Ciattarelli a chance to mock Phil Murphy, who roots for the Red Sox.
Sure, this seems a bit silly, but time and time again, Ciattarelli brings up such anecdotes to make the point that he is a genuine “Jersey Guy” and that Murphy, a transplant from Massachusetts, is not.
John Wioland, the man sporting the Yankee cap, said Murphy has to go, because, “the state is in turmoil.”
A few tables away, another diner said he wasn’t impressed that Murphy this week announced expanded tax and childcare credits plus more payments into the pension system. He said this was what a “shrewd” politician does in an election year.
“We’re gonna beat him,” Ciattarelli told another table of supporters.
Ciattarelli’s friendly reception was no real surprise.
Morris County may be changing a bit politically, but the borough remains solidly Republican. Four years ago, Murphy lost here by more than 400 votes to Republican Kim Guadagno.
After circulating through the main dining area, Ciattarelli joined local Republicans in the back of the restaurant for a pep talk of sorts.
“It’s my job to make sure there are a couple trends that continue,” he said.
One is that no Democratic governor has been reelected in more than 40 years. The other is that also going back more than 40 years, each time a Democrat won the White House, New Jersey elected a Republican governor the next year.
Ciattarelli, of course, needs more than historical trivia to win. He told one group of diners that he was happy to get about 50 percent of the primary vote in a four-person contest and to carry all 21 counties.
Fair point, but here’s an obvious question – will the 50 percent of voters who did not back “Jack” on June 8 back him in November?
He said he banks his hopes on the belief the public wants “common sense, conservative” government.
As she watched her old friend and reflected on their college days together, Caggiano said, “I’m sure he hasn’t changed.”