Guy Gregg's State Senate campaign kickoff

Last night I had the pleasure of driving out to Sussex County to attend the campaign kickoff for one of the finest elected officials serving the people of New Jersey: District 24 Assemblyman, soon to be District 24 Senator, and eventually to be (hopefully) New Jersey Governor, Guy Gregg.

Gregg, a Republican who represents District 24 , took over for another admirable elected official, Richard "Dick" Kamin, 13 years ago. Though I don't live in District 24 and the issues facing Republicans in Sussex, Hunterdon, and western Morris Counties diverge from the party-building crisis facing the Passaic County GOP, I have great admiration for Guy Gregg - his principles, leadership style, approach to campaigning, and belief in party building.

Back in 2004, during the Republican National Convention, I ran into Gregg at a cocktail party at the posh flat (sorry: fancy apartment) belonging to Andy Unanue of Goya fame. Incidentally, 2007 District 26 Assembly candidate Larry Casha, contending with Jay Webber and Alex DeCroce, also attended that event - but more on that later. Anyway, taking time away from courting the big money people circulating at such gatherings, Gregg spent a good half an hour with me discussing strategy for my campaign against Bill Pascrell. He also offered to make the drive down to Passaic County anytime I needed him to stump for me, or M.C. an event, etc.

Try to appreciate how much a first-time Republican candidate, whose own party chair endorsed the Democrat opponent (!!!), appreciated the guidance and support of a legislator from a safe and distant district who had absolutely nothing to gain personally by helping out. The point is, Guy Gregg knew I wasn't going to win. But he also knew that for the Republican Party to have long-term viability, veteran legislators had to take the time to invest in the development of younger candidates who stuck out their necks and "took one for the team" - I discussed this in my December opinion piece in the Record. Unlike the "wily curmudgeons" that populate the State Senate, Gregg understands how party building works and gives more than just lip service - he puts his time and talents at the disposal of others who have little to offer him in return.

I further recall seeing Gregg during one of the conservative activist breakfast meetings organized by Alan Ashkinaze. His ability to deliver a concise and compelling message about the need for small government and property tax relief stands apart from many other Republican candidates who give lip service to such matters. And though Gregg is a committed social conservative, he wisely focuses his message on the fiscal matters of primary importance to most New Jersey residents.

Last week, at Jay Webber's annual Reagan Day celebration, I ran into Gregg, knowing that he was seeking a seat in the State Senate, and told him that I was behind him 100%, adding, "You should be the one running the state party and YOU should be the one running for Governor!" It was then that he invited me to last night's kickoff event, at the Adam Todd restaurant on Route 206.

What a crowd. The turnout was outstanding and the energy was high. Serving as M.C. for the evening was Gregg's wife Linda, and joining him at the podium were fellow legislators Rick Merkt and Michael Doherty, as well as conservative hero and longtime Gregg ally Bret Schundler. What a pleasure to see Bret again!

Gregg's remarks were concise and focused. He touched upon the familiar themes that have characterized his legislative career: small business ownership and small government. He got most fired up, however, when discussing how the GOP majority of the 1990s lost its way. He spoke about his disappointment in seeing his Republican colleagues these days vote for tax increases and support Democrat legislation. "We do have to work with the other party, but we DON'T have to accommodate them and we DON'T have to AGREE with them!" He spoke in an optimistic way about his belief that New Jersey's best days lie ahead, and that with good legislators, we could turn the ship around and not only stop the outflow of families and professionals from the Garden State, but actually attract those who have left us to return.

He mentioned that he looked forward "to serving the residents of this district in its entirety for decades to come." When greeting him after his speech, I said with a smile, "I interpret that to mean that you will win State Senate in 2007 and run for Governor in 2009." Well, I'd be on board.

Finally, I should mention that one of Larry Casha's allies, a friend and a well-respected individual, approached me with feedback on my depiction of Casha's speech at the Passaic County screening. I mentioned "cue cards" which was the wrong term - "index cards" would have been more appropriate and accurate to say, as Casha did hold these in his hand so that he could occasionally refer to them during his remarks.


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