By Lauren Lavelle
A gubernatorial candidate discussed her unconventional upbringing, established career and overall goal of lowering New Jersey’s property taxes during an Oct. 12 Rebovich event in the Mercer Room.
Before her opening statements, Republican candidate Kim Guadagno warned the audience of her intentions, claiming the expected political speech was not in the cards for that afternoon.
“What would happen if I just told you who I was and what I believed in, and then you all made your own choices over the next couple of weeks?” she said. “That would be a new concept. Let’s try that one out.”
Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Guadagno said she was one of five children in a working class family. Her father’s job in sales required frequent travel, forcing the family to uproot over 20 times throughout her childhood.
“The only consistent thing in my life was the furniture in my house,” she said.
Life got easier for Guadagno after she graduated from law school and landed her dream job as a federal prosecutor for organized crime and racketeering in Brooklyn, New York. She met her husband, a New Jersey native and fellow prosecutor, a few years into the business.
“When we got married, I decided I was not going to move my family all around the country,” she said. “We were going to live in one place and we were going to put a pin in it, and all of my husband’s family was going to live in a 10 mile radius of that spot.”
From there, Guadagno became New Jersey’s assistant attorney general and ran statewide prosecutions for the Attorney General’s office, before taking some time off to raise her three sons in Monmouth Beach.
In 2007, life changed once again when Guadagno was given the opportunity to run for sheriff of Monmouth County and became the first woman to fill the position.
“When you get a chance to be the first woman sheriff in Monmouth County, you can’t pass it up,” she said. “It was too much fun for words.”
Two years later, Gov. Chris Christie chose Guadagno as his running mate in the first gubernatorial election to feature voting for a lieutenant governor.
While serving as Christie’s second-in-command, Guadagno promised to bring significant change to New Jersey’s job market, eventually lowering the unemployment rate from 9.8 percent to 4.5 percent during her time in office.
“When the governor asked me to help create jobs in New Jersey, for me, it was personal,” she said. “I may not have won every fight for companies to stay in New Jersey, but I was in every fight I was invited to. We created a partnership for action, a partnership that worked very hard to market New Jersey outside of New Jersey to bring these companies here. Then we set up a system to find the companies with one foot out the door and tried to convince them to stay here.”
As the Republican nominee for the 2017 gubernatorial election, Guadagno has one main priority in mind: lowering state property taxes.
“We can find quality jobs here compared to eight years ago, but we can’t afford to live here anymore,” she said. “I am running to make New Jersey affordable again, and I am running to lower your property taxes. I have a property tax plan that says, on average, our plan will save you $800 a year.”
Her campaign has not been without challenges though, as her opponent, Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, continues to gain popularity.
“We have two very different points of view on how to turn this economy around,” Guadagno said. “I have promised to lower property taxes. In short, Phil Murphy has promised to raise your taxes. Do your homework and you will find that families in New Jersey cannot afford Phil Murphy.”
Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, said he appreciated Guadagno’s willingness to open up, and he feels students benefitted most from her words of wisdom.
“This woman may very well be governor,” he said. “It is important for students to be here and participate because the person who becomes the next governor will have a dramatic effect on student lives.”