JERSEY CITY — Both gubernatorial No. 2s were in New Jersey’s second biggest city today, speaking to very different audiences.
Republican lieutenant governor candidate Kim Guadagno hosted Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele at the Christie campaign’s canvassing headquarters on Martin Luther King Drive in the heart Ward F — the most important cog to Jersey City Democratic turnout machine.
It was, as one supporter noted, the first time Republicans had opened any kind of headquarters in that neighborhood since the Eisenhower era.
“Jon Corzine has turned his back on you. Chris Christie will not and he has not,” Guadagno told a group of about 20 – mostly local Republican activists and candidates – who packed the tiny room.
Steele cut a ribbon to signify the headquarters’ opening, although Hudson County Republican Chairman Jose Arango said it had been open for about one and a half months.
Steele said that, as the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, he appreciates Guadagno’s. He said Christie was “the only candidate on the ticket who’s come to your communities, who’s goin to do something for your community to make it safer.”
Steele, who also planned to join Guadagno at a campaign stop at Bergen County Republican headquarters, did not take any questions from the press.
For the Christie camp, it was another push to show that they’re making a real effort in the inner-city – even if that backfired last month, when they opened a campaign headquarters in Newark with much fanfare.
At that event, Guadagno, who teaches a class at Rutgers Law’s Newark campus, said “”I know what it’s like to be afraid to walk across the street.”
Democrats seized on the comment to paint Guadagno as an out of touch, suburban Republican who fears the inner city. She responded that her car was broken into twice there and that anyone who thought Newark did not have a crime problem “isn’t living in the world that we’re living in.”
“You can take it either way. She maybe doesn’t feel safe, but she feels safe on Martin Luther King Drive. I never saw Corzine walking MLK in Jersey City,” said Jose Arango.
Arango said that his party has been well-organized in its canvassing and phone banking efforts and has made thousands of phone calls. When asked why they did not file an ELEC report this morning, he laughed and said “It’s because we did not raise any money.”
The headquarters was rented to the Christie campaign by Ronnie Meadows, a Democratic sometimes-candidate who recently ran in the primary for Assembly. He said he was voting for Christie.
“I’m tired of seeing these kids out here taking over the streets with the gun violence up here. Senior citizens cannot come out at night,” he said.
But Meadows, who said he has lived in the area for 35 years, was realistic about the number of votes Chrsitie could actually get in Ward F.
“He should be able to pull about a couple hundred,” he said.
Nevertheless, Meadows said that voters aren’t “fired up” for Corzine and that the turnout “won’t be like Obama” – even taking into account the normal drop off in voting from presidential to gubernatorial races.
Meanwhile, in Lincoln Park in neighboring Ward B, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) – who is running for the No. 2 spot on Gov. Corzine’s ticket – was in her element.
Flanked a contingent of Hudson County’s most powerful politicians, Weinberg addressed a crowd of about 50 senior citizens at The Friendship Club’s Halloween party. Making the case for health insurance mandates – and a case against Christie for wanting to allow plans to go without them — she noted thatshe was given five days in the hospital when she had kids. The crowd mumbled in agreement.
“9 days!” one woman shouted.
When asked about Guadagno and Steele’s visit to Ward F, Weinberg mentioned that President Obama was in Hackensack to stump for Corzine last night.
“I think if Michael Steele is the best spokesperson they can find, I’ll match him up against President Barack Obama any day of the week,” she said. “There’s no doubt that the momentum is going our way. I find it interesting when you have the Republican governor trying to pretend that he’s the agent of change, comparing himself to our President. From what I’ve seen of the campaign, his idea of changes is the George Bush policies, the Karl Rove advice, the moving backwards.”
Weinberg, who was chosen to join Corzine’s ticket largely on the strength of her reformist credentials burnished by her clashes with former Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero, said she did not see any problem with being introduced to the seniors by Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who appears