Sparks fly at first NJ governor’s debate


Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli found almost no common ground on Tuesday night as they argued in their first gubernatorial debate on virtually every issue, including COVID-19, reform police and taxes.

Ciattarelli has been very critical of Murphy’s COVID-19 response and has repeatedly attacked him over taxes, repeating more than once the governor’s statement from two years ago: “If the taxes are your problem, we are probably not your state ”. Murphy hammered out Ciattarelli’s positions on gun control, abortion and other social issues, saying he would roll back the state if elected.

Held at the NJPAC in Newark, it was the first debate for the top two gubernatorial candidates and was one of two required by state law for candidates who receive public funding. Their final debate is scheduled for October 12 at 8 p.m. at Rowan University and is co-sponsored by NJ Spotlight News.

Ciattarelli was hoping to make himself known and win over some voters, given the most recent Monmouth University survey said half of registered voters had no opinion about the former state assembly member. That same poll, released last week, had Murphy with a 9-14 percentage point lead over Ciattarelli.

Unsurprisingly, the two clashed over the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Going hand in hand on COVID-19

Ciattarelli said residents of New Jersey nursing homes have died because Murphy told those facilities they need to take COVID-19 patients. Murphy defended his case, saying long-term care facilities have been given “crystal clear” rules requiring the separation of coronavirus patients by floor, wing or building and by staff to prevent viral spread.

“At first we didn’t have a playbook,” said Murphy. “Remember, these people live in these places… so obviously they were always going to go back, but we were very, very clear, explicitly clear: if you go back, you have to be separated.”

Asked about his recent statement that COVID-19 is not a problem for children, Ciattarelli said he probably could have said it better, but added: “Children in general are not as likely to contract a disease. serious and die than adults “. Ciattarelli further said he did not believe the government had the right to “tell people to take medicine” or force anyone to wear a mask.

“A nonsense that kills people”

“To say that it is your call and that the government cannot impose vaccines or masks is to support drunk driving,” Murphy replied. He added that now that we know that vaccines and masks can prevent serious illness and death, Ciattarelli’s position that “my body, my freedom, is nonsense that kills people”.

On several occasions, Murphy has attempted to tie Ciattarelli to Donald Trump, who lost New Jersey by 16 points last year. Murphy called Ciattarelli’s appearance at a “Stop the Steal” rally earlier this year “disqualifying” and said he did not believe Ciattarelli’s claim that he did not know the purpose of the rally. in Bedminster before going there.

Tax, tax, tax …

Ciattarelli, meanwhile, said Murphy “had raised all the taxes we had” and said the governor was out of touch with residents of the state who did not consider themselves better off than four years ago. Murphy countered that he had cut taxes for the middle class, as well as the cost of health insurance, community colleges and child care, and had not increased New Jersey Transit fares. The two men pledged not to raise taxes if elected.

Murphy has repeatedly stated that Ciattarelli voted against public funding for Planned Parenthood, which Ciattarelli, a former member of the Assembly, said because he wanted the money to be distributed among a number of organizations. , including those who do not “advocate for abortion”.

Murphy also criticized Ciattarelli’s stance on gun control, including his legislative votes against a 10-round magazine limit. Murphy also took issue with Ciattarelli’s call to allow concealed port licenses for certain dangerous professions, including real estate agents. Ciattarelli said many women working as real estate agents are at risk when they are alone on open houses.

The candidates also fought over the police reforms put in place by the Murphy administration, with Ciattarelli claiming the governor did not have “the back” of the police and Murphy claiming they had walked a fine line to improving social justice and touting two police union approvals. .

‘Get off the beach’ once again

Ciattarelli criticized Murphy for declaring a state of emergency late as the remnants of Hurricane Ida approached. Paraphrasing former Gov. Chris Christie’s comment as Storm Sandy approached the state in 2012, Ciattarelli said: “If we ever needed a ‘get off the beach’ moment, that was it.” Murphy defended his actions, saying his administration had met about the storm, discussed it and used social media to alert people throughout the day.

Towards the end of his first term, about half of which has been consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s response to it, Murphy, 64, has been trying to become the first Democrat in more than four decades to win a second term as governor. A former Goldman Sachs executive who lives with his wife and four children in Middletown, Murphy is a progressive seeking a second term to continue to develop the policies he has put in place, including increased protections and resources for immigrants. , improved public transport and 100% use of clean energy by 2050.

Ciattarelli, 59, is a former three-term state assembly member who unsuccessfully ran for GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2017, rather than seeking re-election to the Legislature . A certified public accountant who lives with his wife and four children in Hillsborough, he talks about starting two businesses but is no longer involved in either. Although Ciattarelli has been described as a moderate, he supports some more conservative positions, including a voter identification law and a relaxation of state gun laws. He also pledged to reduce personal, property and corporate taxes.

The NJ Spotlight News prime-time debate on October 12, which takes place at Rowan’s Glassboro campus, will be broadcast live on NJ PBS stations and WNYC radio, as well as live on, YouTube and the WNYC and Rowan University sites. WNYC, New York Public Radio, The Gothamist and the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship in Glassboro are co-sponsors.

A debate among the candidates for lieutenant governor, Democrat Sheila Oliver, the current lieutenant governor and commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, and former Republican State Senator Diane Allen, is scheduled for October 5 at 19 hours at Rider University.

These three debates are required by state law because candidates accept public funding for their campaigns. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission chose the sponsors for the debate. So far, Murphy has received nearly $ 8.2 million and Ciattarelli has received $ 5.5 million publicly for their general election campaigns.

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