Atlantic County Republican Stalwart Favors Ciattarelli Over Guadagno

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli Max Pizarro for Obsserver

The Republican side in New Jersey’s 2017 gubernatorial race may be attracting outsider bids from early Trump supporters, but one movement conservative stalwart from South Jersey is praising anti-Trump Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli for his opposition to the state takeover of Atlantic City, where president-elect Donald Trump saw the rise and fall of his casino empire.

Seth Grossman, who unsuccessfully challenged Governor Chris Christie in the primary before his reelection in 2013, said that only Ciattarelli and State Senator Mike Doherty have struck him as candidates looking out for the best interests of the resort town.

Though he stopped short of offering an official endorsement on behalf of conservative advocacy group Liberty and Prosperity 1776, Inc., he said he is leaning Ciattarelli. Grossman serves as the group’s executive director. The payment in lieu of taxes agreement for Atlantic City casinos that accompanied the takeover legislation was the sticking point, he said.

“So far, Jack Ciattarelli (and Mike Doherty if he is a candidate) is/are the only candidates familiar to us who have supported us on the issues that matter most to us. The Casino Tax bailout bill which lets them pay PILOT—Peanuts In Lieu of Taxes for the next ten years was an absolute disgrace, and Jack Ciattarelli and Mike Doherty were the only candidates we know of who stood with us on that critical issue,” he said by email.

The PILOT legislation will stem the city’s losses due to costly casino tax appeals, the leading cause of its fiscal crisis after out-of-state competition—though that end to appeals would entail the city settling for less money than it was owed under the casinos’ pre-decline tax assessments.

Ciatarelli is the most likely gubernatorial hopeful to offer Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno serious competition for their party’s nomination—though Commissioner Steve Rogers of Nutley and Ocean County entrepreneur Joe Rullo also intend to run and hope for a favorable anti-establishment climate following Trump’s surprise presidential victory.

Guadagno remained mum throughout the months-long standoff between Atlantic City and the Christie administration over the takeover.

Grossman said his group’s support would depend on the candidates’ willingness to end the state takeover and allow for a municipal bankruptcy.

“We are also looking to meet candidates willing to let Atlantic City file bankruptcy to avoid the unconscionable $600 million debt run up with illegal budget deficits while under supervision by Governor Christie’s monitors. We have made no final decision and will not do so until we have an opportunity to meet each of the candidates and discuss these and other issues posted on our websites and Facebook Page. We have not met the other candidate(s).”

Both Ciattarelli and Guadagno declined to endorse Trump, with Ciattarelli criticizing Christie for his long absences from the state on the campaign trail as the director of the president-elect’s White House transition team.

Doherty, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters among New Jersey lawmakers during the campaign, has said that he does not intend to run.

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