New Jersey Governor Candidates Face Off in Debate

By Kate King Features Dow Jones Newswires

The Democratic and Republican nominees for governor of New Jersey clashed over property taxes, public pensions and national politics in their first debate Tuesday night, one month before the Nov. 7 election.

Continue Reading Below

Democrat Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who hasn't held elected office, repeatedly sought to link his opponent, Republican nominee Kim Guadagno, to the unpopular administration of outgoing Gov. Chris Christie. Ms. Guadagno, who has served as Mr. Christie's lieutenant governor since 2010, said Mr. Murphy would raise taxes if elected.

The debate at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center also touched on President Donald Trump's proposed tax overhaul, immigration and gun control.

Mr. Murphy attacked Ms. Guadagno and the Christie administration for favoring big business and the wealthy over school funding. "They have chosen to give out tax incentives to large corporations in our state," he said. "All of that has come at the expense of the middle class."

He pledged to fully fund the state's public schools, which he said were underfunded by $9 billion during Mr. Christie's administration.

Ms. Guadagno fought back, asserting that her Democratic opponent's platform would come at the expense of the state's nine million residents. "Phil Murphy has no plan for lowering property taxes," Ms. Guadagno said. "That $9 billion is coming from you if Phil Murphy is elected governor."

Continue Reading Below

Mr. Murphy has campaigned on a progressive platform that includes increasing state funding for public pensions and schools, community college and transportation projects.

Ms. Guadagno has pledged to reduce property taxes for New Jersey residents by implementing a "circuit breaker" that would cap the school portion of residents' property tax bills at 5% of their household income.

Mr. Murphy is outpacing his Republican opponent in the polls and with fundraising. A poll published Oct. 3 by Monmouth University found Mr. Murphy with a 14-point lead among likely New Jersey voters, although nearly half of the respondents had no opinion about either candidate.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the steady stream of news from Washington is overshadowing New Jersey's governor's race.

"People only have so much room in their psyche for political stuff, and President Trump is taking up all that room," Mr. Murray said. "The low attention level for this particular election is really unprecedented."

Mr. Murphy is far ahead of Ms. Guadagno in fundraising, having raised more than $30 million, according to state election records. The figure includes more than $16 million of his own money, which the Democrat contributed to his own campaign during the primary race, as well as $6.3 million in public matching funds.

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission expects to release updated numbers in the coming days.

Mr. Christie, who is prevented by term limits from running for re-election, is unpopular among New Jersey residents as he approaches the end of his second term.

New Jersey and Virginia are the only states electing new governors this November.

Write to Kate King at Kate.King@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 10, 2017 22:33 ET (02:33 GMT)