KEANSBURG, N.J. – New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno did not hesitate to throw punches at Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday during her formal announcement that she was entering the Republican field in hopes of becoming the state’s next governor.
During her announcement, Guadagno said that her main goal as governor if elected would be to save taxpayer money. According to the lieutenant governor, she understands that the travel she takes around the state is funded by taxpayer money and, in that vein, not something to be taken for granted. “I don’t do the helicopter,” Guadagno said, referencing Christie’s highly criticized use of a state helicopter to travel around the Garden State.
Guadagno also jabbed at Christie’s recent decision to use taxpayer money to complete a $300 million renovation to the New Jersey State House, something he announced in late November 2016.
“We simply do not have the money to turn the State House into the Palace of Versailles,” Guadagno told a packed crowd at La Playa Restaurant in Keansburg that included a number of elected officials.
According to Guadagno, if she is elected, cutting wasteful government spending will be her top priority. She said that the state needs to “stick to the basics” and scale back on government programs and, instead, divert money to necessary areas like road infrastructure. She said she also wants to focus on funding schools in a “fair and equitable way,” continue tackling the heroin epidemic and make New Jersey affordable.
Guadagno said that she is a better choice for the spot than Democratic candidates like former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy or Assemblyman John Wisniewski because she does not believe in raising taxes in an already heavily taxed state in order to fix problems. She said she will fight the “knee-jerk reaction” Democrats in the legislature have to raise taxes.
“We must do better,” Guadagno said. “The Democrat’s go-to solution for these problems is to raise taxes and kick the can down the road.” Recently, Christie worked with Democrats to up the New Jersey gas tax 23 cents per gallon, a move Guadagno strongly opposed.
While Guadagno is Christie’s second-in-command and acts as acting governor when he is out of the state, she and Christie have reportedly long been at odds. On Tuesday, Christie held his own event in Newark at the same time as Guadagno’s formal announcement. In November, Christie stepped in at the last minute to give the keynote speech at the League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City in place of Guadagno.
When asked by reporters if she was seeking Christie’s endorsement, Guadagno said that she would readily accept any endorsement that came her way but would not comment further on the matter. Currently, Christie’s approval rating in N.J. sits at an all time low of 18 percent, leading to speculation that Guadagno is purposefully distancing herself from the sitting governor, something reflected in her Tuesday announcement. On Monday, Guadagno released a video announcing her candidacy in which she did not mention any connection to Christie.