Friday, August 3, 2007

Kyrillos Leads the Charge for Romney in New Jersey

Kyrillos Leads the Charge for Romney in New Jersey

State Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos, Jr., R-Middletown, acknowledges many New Jersey voters still aren't that familiar with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But once they do learn about Romney's tax-cutting, pro-business platform, his New Jersey numbers will shoot up over the next six months, Kyrillos told NJpols. Kyrillos was one of the first major New Jersey politicians to endorse Romney for president and earlier this year was named the chairman of Romney's presidential campaign in New Jersey.

Kyrillos said that Romney has been recognized for his accomplishments as a public servant and in private enterprise. But just as importantly, he said, Romney has the stature to become the next chief executive.

But Kyrillos freely admits that Romney has some serious challenges to overcome in the Garden State. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is seen in the state as a hero of 9/11, currently enjoys a big lead in all of the polls and in the fundraising race.

According to a July Quinnipiac University poll, Giuliani overwhelms the Republican primary field in New Jersey with 46 percent, followed by Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain at 11 percent, former Tennessee U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson at 9 percent and Romney at 7 percent.

Kyrillos was first elected to the state Legislature in 1987, served two terms in the General Assembly and is in his fifth term in the state Senate. He also served as chairman of the Republican State Committee from 2001-2004. He recently talked to NJpols about the Romney campaign and the state of New Jersey government.

Why have you decided to back Mitt Romney for president?

"I feel very strongly about Gov. Romney. He really is right out of central casting to be our president - as a CEO and founder of a successful enterprise, as the head of the 2001 Olympic Games and as a former governor.

He will serve as president with the same qualities that a strong and forceful CEO brings to bear in the private sector along with incredibly positive personal qualities. Quite simply, he is a great guy with the ability to inspire the country and bring out the best in Americans. He will also bring very smart and competent people from the private sector into government. He is the person to watch in New Jersey."

You came out against the Republicans' all-or-nothing plan to give all of the state's delegates to the candidate that wins a simple majority in the primary. Some have said this all but seals New Jersey for Giuliani.

"Right now, New Jersey is fixated on Rudy. Romney is starting out as an unknown, while some of the other candidates, like Giuliani and McCain, have plateaued. Mitt has a lot of room to grow, which I find very exciting. This is one of the reasons why I thought it was a mistake to make New Jersey winner-take-all. All it does is ensure that very few, if any, of the presidential candidates will visit the state in the next year."

You have been very critical of the state Democrats $33.5 million budget, even though it doesn't include any new taxes. Why?

"This was a big punt. We're postponing the day of reckoning. It's amusing to watch people exhibit great pride because the budget passed quickly and with seemingly little rancor. All of the difficult decisions we face as a state - school finance, municipal consolidation and aggregation, sharing of services and compensation reform - were and still are being overlooked. At some point we are going to have to deal with these important issues."

How could the process be modified so that the legislature doesn't have to pass this type of "election year" budgets in the future?

"I would favor a move to eliminate odd-year elections because the annual election process in New Jersey, which makes us nearly unique in the country, is very taxing. Among other results, is the constant never-ending fundraising and political maneuvering."

New Jersey income levels may be the highest in the country, but many families' income can't keep up with the rising cost of living. What can government do?

"We have a real affordability problem in New Jersey. We're a densely populated suburb for the most part, which makes [the state] expensive from top to bottom. First, we have to have tax reform and government reform, which are essential if we are going to sustain ourselves as a successful state.

But beyond that, we really need to focus on supporting business, the economy and job creation. We have to make New Jersey the premier state to relocate to and expand in. We're losing our competitive edge slowly and surely. The cost differentials between New York and New Jersey and Pennsylvania are blurring. It's a flatter world, where people can relocate and set up shop virtually anywhere. We have a historic challenge to grow prosperity here locally that makes New Jersey a more prosperous place for people to live in."

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