NEWARK – Jack Ciattarelli was recorded a few weeks ago telling Republicans he needs some “wiggle room” as his campaign gears up for the fall push.
What “wiggle room” actually means may be debatable, but not to Phil Murphy.
“That’s somebody speaking to the Trump base, (saying) ‘Please allow me to appear moderate and don’t hold that against me,'” the governor said this afternoon.
And for Murphy, that’s very much how he wants to frame the election – him against the “Trump base.”
The selected forum for today’s pronouncement was quite appropriate – an event in which Murphy was endorsed by Garden State Equality, a gay rights organization.
That was right in step with the governor’s point that Ciattarelli, who has had a moderate reputation, is now catering to the far right.
Along with the “wiggle room” remark, Ciattarelli recently questioned the LGBT curriculum in public schools, saying he didn’t like the idea of talking about “sodomy” in the sixth grade.
Murphy, who called those comments divisive on Monday, went a bit further today.
“You saw what he said,” Murphy said while flanked by at least a dozen supporters. He accused his opponent of using “third rail words” that are designed to divide people.
“That’s just not who we are,” he said, referring to the state and even the country.
Prior to talking about Ciattarelli, Murphy was praised for supporting issues important to the gay community.
In fact, Jeannine LaRue, a lobbyist, applauded the governor’s “lazer focus” on such progressive goals as driver’s licenses for the undocumented, early voting and pot legalization.
Murphy said he was humbled by the support.
Then he looked ahead and that brought him around to Ciattarelli and his contention that the Republican would stop, or perhaps undo, the progress he says the state has made since January, 2018.
Saying that every election is a choice, Murphy added that the choice between him and his opponent is probably “as stark as any statewide election” ever.