By Greg Kelly
I recently launched a website about my native town of Monmouth Beach and it just so happens that a resident of that great community is running for Governor of New Jersey, Kim Guadagno.
So I thought I’d offer some local perspective on a state concern. I’m backing Kim on November 7 and it’s an easy vote for me.
I’ve known Kim since she first ran for political office in Monmouth Beach back 12 years ago. As I’ve followed her career, I’ve learned that Kim already has to be exceptional just to survive. She’s a Republican from New Jersey (a state that twice voted against Abraham Lincoln), is married to a seasoned judge (husband Mike recently retired from the NJ Superior Court) and is mother to three smart kids (some went to school with my children for a while).
In light of the recent vile and mean-spirited Star-Ledger editorial endorsement of Phil Murphy in the governor’s race, I’d like to offer the main reasons why Kim gets my vote:
- Integrity: It was a very rainy, windy night in early December last year. The Monmouth Beach Fire Company (I am a 35-year exempt member) was hosting its annual dinner at the Monmouth Beach Bath & Tennis Club on Ocean Avenue. And on this horrendous weather night by the water, our busy lieutenant governor showed up to help us mark the occasion.
It wasn’t just a quick cameo either. Kim joined in and listened to us (mostly middle-aged men) celebrate ourselves. She didn’t have to appear at our small time event — or any other in town. When it comes to little Monmouth Beach, our vote is meaningless. There was absolutely no reason for her to be at our tedious townie event. Zero political gain was to be had.
In light of the extreme outdoor elements, I still can’t believe I made the meeting that night — and I like a lot of these people (while only tolerating a few others). Kim not only appeared, but stayed awhile, and seemed to enjoy it all.
And I’m told that Kim has frequently gone out of her way to attend and/or officiate at many hometown events over the past 8 years — always with good humor and style.
Her classy behavior on that miserable stormy night offered insight, showing me that she is a person of good character and steady loyalty. Traits that are in very short supply in Trenton.
- Experience: Many voters for Democrat Phil Murphy admit to me they know that he bought his way to the ’17 Democrat nomination for NJ governor. Spending over $16 million of his own money to win the gubernatorial primary back in the summer, the former top Goldman Sachs executive didn’t earn it; he acquired it.
Kim got where she did the old-fashioned way — hard work and dedication. A real legal-eagle, she is a former assistant US Attorney and assistant NJ Attorney General, where she successfully prosecuted political corruption and business fraud (sound familiar in NJ?)
Starting out as a Monmouth Beach planning board member, Kim began her elective career in 2005 as a borough commissioner. She won a seat with 484 votes and her first official act was to praise the MBBP swim team, I recall from my reporting.
She moved on to Monmouth County Sheriff, winning a close race for the office in 2007. In some Monmouth Beach serendipity, Eliakim Wardell, the borough’s founder, was the very first Monmouth County Sheriff back in 1683, a fact Kim liked to point out. She quickly made an impression in Freehold, she explained to me, even though “they weren’t ready for a woman sheriff.”
Since 2009, Kim has served as the Lt. Governor of New Jersey, the first such official in state history. And in an effort to cull NJ’s ever-expanding bureaucracy, she has done double duty as the NJ Secretary of State.
Murphy is nowhere as steeped or as studied as is Kim in understanding the major issues that impact our state. She has earned the chance to be our governor.
- Protection: I maintain that we must be better stewards of our planet. We only got the one. I’m not a global-warming doomsayer, but I do believe stronger actions are required to protect our environment.
This issue is particularly critical to us on the Jersey Shore, of which Kim is a contented dweller. While I wonder if Phil Murphy could find the beach with a map, I believe that Kim knows and loves our coast.
During an interview with her a few years back, Kim told me that during her many travels around the Garden State she has seen it all and feels blessed to be able to come back to Monmouth Beach every day. “It’s my home,” she told me.
The whole farce of Chris Christie lounging on a shuttered state beach this past summer held no amusement for me. It was just a media game for him — it was easy to see the guy doesn’t really care about the shore. Kim, who lives here, surely does.
Which candidate will do a better job of protecting New Jersey’s precious 127-mile coastline (and by connection our environment)? Simple, the person who says it’s home.
- Stability: Chris Christie failed as NJ governor not because of his polices (many of which Kim continues to embrace) but because of his personality. I find him to be a repellent human being — on so many levels. And some of the worst stuff I heard about him came from Republicans. Kim is her own person and thinks for herself.
Still, the goals and policies that he (and she) twice won the governor’s office on (e.g., limiting government spending, reducing taxes, creating jobs, bettering education, and reforming public employee benefits) are as clear and as meaningful as ever.
Even Kim admits that there’s little or no chance of party control change in either house of the NJ state legislature this election. NJ Democrats will keep control and neither they nor Phil Murphy are talking about limiting state government spending going forward (they’ve already told us our taxes will go way up). An analysis by Save Jersey says that Murphy’s proposals will cost $75 billion. Think we’re in a financial hole now?
Even if she achieves little else, Kim will act as a reasonable check or control on crazy government spending in NJ. To me, this was Christie’s lone worthy achievement as governor — his finger in the damn. It’s scary to think that New Jersey’s worst in the nation record on high taxes could have been lousier.
- Diversity: Kim’s choice for lieutenant governor is a wise one. Carlos Rendo, the 53-year-old mayor of Woodcliff Lake, NJ, was born in Cuba but fled the communist nation for America with his family as a young boy. The Republican Party will never endure unless it opens up its tent to include more Hispanic Americans.
Latino voters, an important political force (they’re 20% of the NJ electorate and growing), understand and want the American dream. They as a people embrace hard work, family unity, and religious faith — all fundamental hallmarks of the Republican canon. We need them in our party.
Mayor Rendo says his inspiration is Ronald Reagan, who easily carried our state twice. Plus, Rendo backed Florida Senator Marco Rubio (not Christie) in the 2016 US presidential race and he’s the person I wanted to win.
Good luck, Kim!