NEWARK – Republicans Chris Christie and Kim Guadagno today presented themselves as lunch bucket Newarkers, who know the city well enough to walk in it – and enough to be familiar with its tensions.
“I know what it’s like to be afraid to walk across the street,” Guadagno, the sheriff of Monmouth County who teaches classes twice a week at Rutgers Newark, told a small and enthusiastic crowd at the opening of Christie/Guadagno’s Newark campaign HQ.
“My wife will tell you thatover the last seven years I spent more time here in Newark than in Morris County,” said the GOP nominee for governor, whoresides in Mendham Township.
Christielived the first five years of his life here, and as he did at the start ofthis campaign when heformally announced his candidacy at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, he reiterated his commitment to urban New Jersey.
“We are going to bring back the social fabric of our cities,” saidthe Republican, who worked a few blocks from hereat the Pete Rodino Federal Building during his tenure as U.S. Attorney.”We will bring the city back to its greatest potential.”
Essex County Republican Party Chairman Kevin O’Toole presented Christie as anauthentic and enduring Essex County product.
“Born in Newark, raised in Livingston, he understandswhat we go through,” said O’Toole, who included Guadagno when he added, “There’s a real Essex County feel to these two.”
But West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice, a surrogate for Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, said Christie’s rhetoric to thisstage of the campaign does little more than create echoes from the Bush era.
“The state loves to give different sounding Republicans a look, butI just don’t hear anything new here,” said Rice.
“It’s allthe sametired and worn out philosophy of vouchers and school choice and urban enterprise zones.Christie doesn’t have a plan. Every timeI hear him talk,I hear George Bush,” added the councilman, referring to Christie’s fundraising efforts for the former Republican president.
Christie’s decision with the state party apparatus to open a campaign headquarters in Newark occured days after Mayor Cory Booker released a web ad in which the mayor proclaimed his energized support for the incumbent governor.
“Governor Corzine has increased funding for our schools by over $1 billion over the last four years while cutting the budget statewide,” said the mayor.”Here in Newark we’re making the most of it — we have three Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and seen 4 new schools built to serve the children and families of our great City.
“While we’ve made some important strides, there is much work to be done to ensure that every New Jersey child receives an excellent education. Jon Corzine is our partner in this critical mission.”
Among those Newarkers in the vicinity of Christie headquarters this afternoon was Calvin West, aonetime longtime ally of former Mayor Sharpe James and formerlya McGreevey and Corzine administration employee who lost his job with Corzine’s cuts.
“Christie will get Calvin West out there and a handful of Newark Republicans, but the way we look at it, the more they’re (Republicans) in Essex County, the better for us,” said a Democratic Party operative. “We want activity in Newark, where eight out of ten voters will vote for Corzine.They should put sound.”
But in his remarks today at HQ, Christie maintained his belief that Corzine’s summer long-fusillade of attacks would back fire on him – even in what should be his homebase, which Christie the native Newarker insists on claiming as his own.