PEAPACK-GLADSTONE – Kate Whitman has been in the seventh district congressional race three months now, but she made her formal entrance announcement today at a kickoff event at the council chambers nestled in the hills of her quiet, semi-rural hometown of Peapack-Gladstone.
The event was a family affair, attended by her mother, former Gov. Christie Whitman, her husband, brother and young twin sons, while a big portion of the audience was made up of young mothers with towheaded toddlers.
At this point in the race, with eight other candidates in the field, it's hard for the 30-year-old Whitman to claim momentum. State Sen. Leonard Lance easily won an endorsement in his home county of Hunterdon last night. The next convention is Union County, where Whitman concedes that the committee vote will likely be split between former Summit Councilwoman P. Kelly Hatfield and Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks. She's hoping that she'll be able to pull off a victory in Somerset, but it's far from a given, considering that there are five candidates from the county in the race, while all three of its legislators have endorsed Lance.
But Whitman said that getting the county line isn't everything, and that she has no plans of dropping out, even if she wins no conventions.
"I'm in it until June," she said.
Whitman does have the largest war chest of any candidate so far, at about $200,000, according to the last report. But many candidates, including Lance, did not start raising money until last month. Moreover, only about $150,000 of Whitman's total so far can be used in the primary, as many of the donors made the maximum contribution of $2,300 for both the primary and general elections.
As the only other high profile candidate in the race, Lance has been Whitman's primary adversary. Although she made reference to "career politicians" several times in her speech, she said that most of that was aimed towards likely Democratic nominee Linda Stender, who she dubbed a "rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi."
Nevertheless, she did have some harsh words for Lance.
"He has fought hard in New Jersey, but he has been part of a problem and I have not been. What I offer is change and some new ideas and a new perspective," she said.
But when asked, Whitman did not name three votes Lance made in the legislature with which she disagreed.
"I would really rather look overall," she said. "For the last seven years, things have not been going well in Trenton. I do not believe that sending career politicians like Linda Stender down to Washington will change anything."
Whitman used today's announcement to outline a six-point policy plan, which fit with the branding of herself as "fiscal conservative Kate Whitman," which adorns her new red and white campaign signs.
If elected, she'll immediately introduce legislation to cut the congressional payroll by 10% and match legislative benefits to military ones. She also supports making President Bush's tax cuts permanent, instituting congressional term limits of six terms in the House and two terms in the Senate and encouraging more private sector health care competition. Whitman opposes a timetable for troop withdrawal in Iraq, and wants to stop illegal immigrants from being able to wire money.
"We can make illegal immigrants self-deport by making it less beneficial to be here illegally," she said.
From the beginning of her campaign, Whitman has argued that she doesn't feel entitled to the office because of her lineage, noting that she's worked as a staffer in the White House, Congress and Labor department. She's even distanced herself from Gov. Whitman's moderate reputation, saying at events that she's "more conservative than my mother." And she has made inroads with at least one conservative, getting the endorsement of Michael Illions of Conservatives With Attitude.
Responding to criticism that she was turned down for the Somerset County Freeholder nod amidst concerns that she didn't have any municipal experience, the 30-year-old Whitman pointed out that Rep. Mike Ferguson was also thirty when he won his seat, and had never held elected office before.
Meanwhile, Christie Whitman sought to reinforce her daughter's independence.
"She's not just like me and I think people understand that. She's been her own person since she was a child," said the former governor.
The elder Whitman argued that the district has changed drastically over the last several years, noting Stender's razor-thin loss to incumbent Ferguson in 2006.
"I think that people have the assumption that whichever Republican wins the primary, they'll win the general. That's just not true," she said, noting that her daughter's candidacy represents a clean break from Trenton politics – something Lance can't offer.
Whitman's event took place just after Gov. Corzine's budget address. While she hadn't yet heard it, she said that cuts in municipal aid would likely increase property taxes.
"That will probably be a fight," she said.
Whitman's announcement Speech:
Thank you all for being here today, and thank you Rick for that very kind introduction.
I also want to thank and introduce my husband Craig, and our two children- Clayton and John, who are also here with us today, across the hall in the library, hopefully being perfect little gentlemen… And of course I want to thank all of you, our friends, family (my mother, brother, aunts and cousins) and supporters for being here, it means a lot to us.
Today I am officially announcing my candidacy for Congress.
And I want to share with you exactly why I want to serve you in Congress. To explain, I’m going to borrow a quote from Herb Brooks, the Coach of the 1980 USA Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Team. When trying to explain his style of coaching and the men he was coaching he said, “I wasn’t trying to put greatness in them, I was trying to pull the greatness out.”
Simply put, this nation has already proven it can be great, but we have lost our way. Right now our country is at a crossroads, and I know we can do better. All our families deserve better.
When I go to Washington as your next member of Congress, I will lead by example, and do everything to pull the greatness out of our country and make us all proud once again.
That's why I have created a 6 Point Plan to get America moving in the right direction by changing business as usual in Washington. My plan is centered a round restoring fiscal restraint and conservatism to Congress so you the taxpayers can keep more of your hard-earned money.
It also holds politicians accountable for their votes, so that those they serve know exactly what they are voting for and against. But most importantly, my plan leads by example – it does what the career politicians refuse to do – put public-service before self-service.
As your next member of Congress, I pledge that I will always, always put you, the people of this district first. And to do that, I will go first.
By this I mean, when I get to Congress I will do all the things that are right and necessary, but for some reason, career politicians refuse to do. I will sponsor legislation that starts in-house, literally – legislation that cuts the pay of members of Congress by 10%, requires an actual vote to increase congressional salaries, and ends special pensions for members of Congress – give us the same benefits we give our Veterans, and no more – or improve their benefits too. We need to take better care of our veterans, because they certainly deserve it.
And my list goes on.
You will see that some of my ideas are simply common sense. But apparently they aren’t to the career politicians. For instance, why does Congress keep taking a payraise when our nation’s debt keeps growing? Why do they get a payraise when they haven’t solved problems like social security and illegal immigration? How can they think it’s okay to vote for millions of dollars in “wasteful pork” without reading the bill or knowing who sponsored it?
In the business world they would have all been fired for not doing their job. But instead, the career politicians have taken over our country and are putting their own needs first – before us, the taxpayers they are supposed to serve.
I say, enough is enough. In order to change the way we do business in Washington, we have to change who we send to Washington.
I am not a career politician. I am a small business owner, a licensed real estate agent, a wife and a mother of twin boys. I spent the last decade working here in New Jersey and in Washington helping elect Republicans dedicated to fiscal conservatism. I worked for the US Department of Labor responsible for giving $ 25 million to New York City after 9/11 to help displaced workers get back on their feet.
I also worked for Congressman Chris Cox, then Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee. It was there I learned the inner workings of Congress and how to get things accomplished.
It was also there that I witnessed the actions of the very best officials in government and the very worst.
I know it will be a fight to get my ideas signed into law – but that won’t stop me from trying. And it certainly won’t stop me from doing what is right.
My 6 Point Plan requires Congress to work together to get this country moving in the right direction. Specifically it includes:
- Reducing Taxes and Cutting Wasteful Spending. Start with cutting the pay of Congressional members by 10%, and their office budgets by 10%. We need to terminate duplicative government programs. Government does serve a purpose – but for each purpose we only need one program and one bureaucracy with it. We must both eliminate wasteful earmarks that lead to higher taxes – and require 100% transparency and accountability on all spending bills.
2. Improving Our Economy for Our Hard-Working Taxpaying Families. We must make permanent the GOP tax cuts which have helped save the average New Jersey family $ 2,500 a year and support expanding tax cuts to help create more good paying jobs. History has shown that both of these actions will help our faltering economy.
3. Ending Illegal Immigration. We can make illegal immigrants self deport if we stop making it so beneficial to be here illegally. We do this by creating an employment, housing and banking verification database and by stopping illegals’ ability to wire money to their homelands. And on the other side, we need to streamline the process for those wanting to move here legally and become vibrant members of our society.
4. Providing Affordable Healthcare for All Our Families, by enabling private sector, free market driven competition to force prices down and encourage accessibility, portability and individual ownership of quality medical insurance.
5. Cleaning Up Corruption in Washington, by imposing limits of 6 terms in the U.S. House and 2 terms in the U.S. Senate, putting an end to career politicians and requiring 100% transparent accountability on all legislation and all votes.
Taxpayers deserve to know what they are getting from their public servants, and public servants shouldn’t be afraid to tell them.
6. Finishing Our Work in Iraq and Afghanistan and Bringing Our Troops Home Safely. We must support our Generals in the field, not politicians in Washington. We need to force Iraqis to do more for themselves, so we can start doing less. And while we are at it, let’s improve services for wounded and retiring Veterans making sure that the promises we’ve made to all our Veterans of all generations are kept.
This isn’t the whole plan. Here is the whole plan – I am passing it out here today, and you can read it on my website at kateforcongress.com.
See this? This is my signature. I have signed this because this is my pledge to you and to every taxpayer in this district to change the way Washington works and get this government back to the business of working for the people.
The future of America is too important to continue down this path. With your help I intend to do whatever it takes to get us on track again. To borrow another Herb Brooks quote, “great moments are born from great opportunities.” This is our moment, let’s seize it!
I thank you for coming, I thank you for your friendship and support, and of course I ask for your vote for Congress on June 3rd.