New Jersey's lieutenant governor candidates disagreed Friday over whether Gov. Chris Christie should have appeared in tourism commercials after Superstorm Sandy and whether the Republican administration has done all it could in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in state history.
Christie's second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, vigorously defended the governor and his response to last October's storm during a one-hour debate with Democrat Barbara Buono's running mate, Milly Silva.
Silva, meanwhile, said more could be done for residents still unable to move back home.
In their only debate leading up to the Nov. 5 election, Guadagno and Silva appeared confident and prepared. Afterward, with her microphone still on, Guadagno extended her hand to Silva and said, "How much fun was that?''
Guadagno, the former Monmouth County sheriff who would become governor if Christie wins re-election but resigns to run for president, touted the governor's leadership and the administration's accomplishments throughout, saying it was "inconceivable'' to suggest that Christie hasn't taken responsibility for the storm cleanup.
"There was no playbook,'' for responding to a storm of the magnitude of Sandy, Guadagno said. "The governor of the state of New Jersey wrote that playbook.''
Silva questioned why Christie and his family _ not the small business owners ``who are the faces of the Jersey shore'' _ appeared in $2 million worth of tourism promotional ads in a bid to draw visitors back to the state's beaches. Guadagno said there was no better pitchman than Christie to show that the shore was reopened for business.
Guadagno and Silva took turns throughout the debate reciting a favorite statistic from their respective campaigns. For Guadagno, it was 143,000 private-sector jobs created. For Silva, it was 400,000 residents still out of work.
The two also spared on gay marriage, a case the state Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear. Christie vetoed a same-sex marriage bill, and suggested the issue be put to voters in a referendum. Democrats have resisted putting it on the ballot, arguing that as a civil right, it doesn't belong there.
"It's time for Gov. Christie to get out of the way of history,'' said Silva.
"If it had been on the ballot on Nov. 5, you could have same-sex marriages on Nov. 6,'' said Guadagno, who questioned the wisdom of leaving the issue in the hands of public officials or the courts.
Silva, 42, is an executive with SEIU 1199, a union representing 7,000 nursing home and health care workers. She is making her first bid for elected office.
Guadagno, 54, was tapped by Christie as the state's first lieutenant governor in 2009. She has led the state's economic development efforts and also serves in Christie's cabinet as secretary of state.