In any election year other than 2017, New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno would be considered one of the leading stars in the national GOP firmament. Indeed, she has a “star” quality about her that is reminiscent of my former boss in whose administration I served quite proudly, Christie Whitman.
I have long asserted that on economic development issues, Whitman was the greatest governor in modern New Jersey
history. Her instincts and analytical talents on economic development matters were superb. Moreover, Christie Whitman possessed a remarkable ability to communicate with business executives, both within and outside New Jersey.
All this enabled Christie Whitman to lead the transformation of New Jersey from an economic backwater at the time she
took office in 1994 into the economic leader of the Northeastern United States. It is my firm belief that Kim Guadagno can spearhead a similar Garden State economic revival if she is elected Governor in 2017.
Economic development is not the only issue that would face a Governor Guadagno at the time she would take office in
January, 2018. New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund and pension funds are in a state of dire crisis. Yet a Governor
Guadagno would have the requisite skill set to deal with these matters as well.
Kim Guadagno is an outstanding attorney, and this enables her to have an unsurpassed grasp of the difficulties in crafting legislation to deal with either of these predicaments. She also has the ability to find common ground with legislators on both sides of the aisle, an absolute must if bipartisan agreements are to be reached in resolving these two crises.
Finally, in terms of candidate skills, Guadagno is top flight. Her communication talents, personality, and charisma combine to make her a most formidable candidate. At a time when the GOP gender gap is widening due to the Trump candidacy, Kim Guadagno is
the answer to a New Jersey Republican’s prayers.
All this would make a Kim Guadagno candidacy a top tier priority for the Republican National Committee in any normal
election year. The problem for her, however, is that 2017 will not be a normal election year in New Jersey.
The incumbent Republican governor, Chris Christie, is highly unpopular. He is perceived by the Garden State electorate
as being a policy failure and a chief executive who put the agenda of his national presidential aspirations ahead of the
best interests of New Jersey. As a result, the Democrats are almost prohibitive favorites to regain the New Jersey
governorship in 2017.
The question has to be raised: In view of her considerable electoral and governmental talents, should Guadagno wait until 2021 to make a run for the governorship? There is a real prospect that in fulfilling their promises to the various union special interest groups, such as the NJEA and the CWA, the new Democratic governor and legislature may be laying the foundation for a 2021 Democratic demise. To keep their 2017 promises, they will either have to raise taxes or cut popular middle class programs. This would provide the GOP with an outstanding opportunity in the 2021 elections.
Guadagno really cannot afford to wait until 2021 to make her gubernatorial run, however. In New Jersey politics, being out of sight
is also out of mind. If another GOP personality is nominated for governor in 2017 and makes a credible, yet losing run, he or she would become the 2021 nomination front runner.
So Kim must make the run in 2017. The question then is whether there are things she can do in the meantime that would enhance
her electoral chances. One suggestion has been that she take some public position that would place her at variance with Governor
Christie. This is a course of action that could backfire badly. Voters are not well disposed towards disloyalty, and such a repudiation in itself would hardly make her immune to Democratic attacks on her status as a member of an unpopular Christie administration.
Furthermore, there remains the possibility that Christie’s favorability ratings could rise. There are few Republicans who have written as critically as I have regarding Chris Christie’s tenure as governor. Yet I would be the first to say that if Christie focuses on creating a strong legacy for himself, regardless of its effect on his remaining national aspirations, he is capable of achieving genuine policy
breakthroughs during his remaining time in office. He has the political and governmental skills to do so. If his popularity increases, Kim Guadagno would be a major beneficiary, and her loyalty would be thus rewarded.
There is another eventuality that could benefit Kim Guadagno enormously: the possibility that Chris Christie could be named to the new president’s cabinet if the GOP captures the White House this November. Guadagno would become the new governor, and my view is that she could achieve an instant popularity. This would enable her to battle her 2017 Democratic opponent on at least even
terms. Even if Kim loses in 2017, a credible run would make her the front runner for 2021.
I was fortunate to be on the scene when Christie Whitman became the first woman governor of New Jersey. Her election shattered the glass ceiling that had prevented other women from being elected to the Garden State’s highest office. I can think of no
worthier a person than Kim Guadagno to ascend through that broken glass ceiling and become New Jersey’s next elected woman
governor, whether in 2017 or 2021.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.