Candidates clash with more smoke than fire

Wall Street millionaire Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno battle to replace Gov. Chris Christie in the first of two debates.

Two of the seven candidates running to replace Gov. Chris Christie debated for the first time last night, spending an hour trading insults and accusations as they articulated differences on a wide array of subjects.

Republican Kim Guadagno, the state’s first lieutenant governor, tried to frame the race as a chance to lower taxes and make New Jersey more affordable but her opponent, Wall Street millionaire Philip Murphy, asserted that the contest is a choice between Democrats and Republicans.

“This election isn’t about Republicans. It isn’t about Democrats. It’s about affordability. It’s about making New Jersey a place that’s affordable to live again,” said Guadagno but the GOP candidate could not break away from the suggestion that she would essentially represent a third term of Chris Christie when it comes to pension funding, handling the state economy and curbing gun violence.

“The inconvenient truth for Phil is: Chris Christie’s not on the ballot, I am,” Guadagno said but Murphy responded, “Chris Christie’s record is your record, lieutenant governor. You’ve been beside him every step of the way.”

Murphy called New Jersey “a great state that has been ravage under the Christie-Guadagno administration over the past eight years.”

None of the independent or third party contenders are expected to have a chance to confront the major party contenders in a face to face debate.

Seth Kaper-Dale is the Green Party candidate, Pete Rohrman is the Libertarian Party nominee, former Long Hill Mayor Gina Genovese is waging an independent campaign, Marine Corps veteran Matthew Riccardi is representing the Constitution Party, and Vincent Ross is an all but invisible independent contender.

Exactly four weeks before Election Day on Nov. 7 the one-hour debate at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark failed to inject much drama into the contest, which has drawn little interest.

A recent poll showed nearly half of the state’s likely voters still don’t know much about either Guadagno or Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who used about $20 million of his Wall Street fortune to win the Democratic nomination.

Christie’s eight years come to a close as Democrats around the nation are invigorated by the incompetent and controversial presidency of Donald Trump.

In a direct assault on one key Trump policy, Murphy argued that if New Jersey’s 22,000 “dreamers” are deported, the state would lose $1.6 billion in gross domestic product each year, and he said those who came to the United States as children and were raised here “are every bit as American as my four kids.”

Guadagno touted her property-tax plan, which could save the average taxpayer $800. “That may not be a lot of money to Phil Murphy, Goldman Sachs millionaire,” she said. “That’s a lot of money to a lot of people. They need that help, and they need that help now.”

Murphy pledged to fully fund the state’s public worker pension system, but Guadagno criticized that promise saying: “To fully fund the pension system, we would need $15 billion out of a $34 billion budget.”

Guadagno also attacked Murphy on his promise to provide the state’s full share of school funding, estimated to be about $9 billion.

Citing the massacre at a country music concert in Las Vegas, Murphy called for stricter background checks and said he would sign gun control legislation that Christie vetoed.

Guadagno said she would not “take guns out of the hands of honest law-abiding citizens,” noting the New Jersey already has some of the nation’s toughest firearms laws. Oddly, she commented that she would advocate the death penalty for the Las Vegas shooter, who killed himself before police broke into his hotel room.

“I want to call Phil Murphy a coward,” said Guadagno. “Phil Murphy didn’t start to talk about Harvey Weinstein until after my campaign today listed the tens of thousands of dollars that he raised.”

“I literally have no idea what she’s talking about,” said Murphy



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