Candidates for New Jersey Governor Square Off in Debate

By Kate King Features Dow Jones Newswires

After a fraught week of campaigning, the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor of New Jersey met again Wednesday in a debate that underscored deep policy divisions between their two campaigns.

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Republican Kim Guadagno, who has been outgoing Gov. Chris Christie's lieutenant governor since 2010, has campaigned heavily on the promise that she will lower property taxes in her first term. But over the last week, Ms. Guadagno, a former sheriff, has also sought to position herself as tough on crime, releasing a television advertisement that claimed her Democratic opponent would prioritize protecting violent undocumented immigrants from deportation over the safety of New Jersey residents.

Her opponent, Democrat, Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, slammed the ad as "vile and deceitful." Mr. Murphy, who has run on a progressive campaign platform, released an ad that featured him standing in front of the George Washington Bridge and saying that Mr. Christie and Ms. Guadagno's "biggest triumph was a traffic jam," a reference to the lane-closure scandal that led to federal corruption convictions against several of the governor's associates. Ms. Guadagno's campaign spokesman called the ad "desperate."

A poll released Friday by Stockton University showed Mr. Murphy with an 18-point lead over Ms. Guadagno among likely New Jersey voters.

Mr. Murphy and Ms. Guadagno sparred over several key issues:

Immigration

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Kim Guadagno: "I don't believe that the people of New Jersey want to see a violent criminal released from our jails if there's an immigration detainer against them."

Phil Murphy: "When residents...feel comfortable about engaging with law enforcement and they're not worried about their immigration status, without question you have a safer environment."

State Employee Pensions

Murphy: "We've got to get back to fully funding the pension plan. Only then can you start talking about what else you're going to do. If you've been left at the altar 20 years in a row and most notably in the past eight years and the only answer is, 'Hey, if you concede a little bit more, we might find a way to find more money,' that's unacceptable. The state must meet its obligations."

Guadagno : "Phil has no plan whatsoever to fully fund that pension. What I would do is really simple. I would take the law-enforcement pensions and spin them off because they're almost fully funded as it is. Then we have to sit down and admit what we cannot deny, and that is that the pensions for the teachers and the other public-sector unions is broke."

Student Debt

Murphy: "We stand for free community college. At most it's a $200 million ticket on a $35 billion budget. We love the idea of a public bank that we all as citizens own and one of the lines of business is reasonable student loans."

Guadagno: "Free college education falls in the category of who's going to pay for it? Everyone in New Jersey is going to pay for it."

Atlantic City

Murphy: "The economy in Atlantic City must be diversified. Nongaming investment will matter a lot there and I want to work with Atlantic City to do that. I would undo that state takeover."

Guadagno: "The only thing that keeps Atlantic City alive now and attracts businesses to Atlantic City are those tax credits. That's why Atlantic City is on its way back."

Should U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez resign if convicted in a federal corruption trial?

Murphy: "I think any speculation on someone who's in the middle of the trial is a complete waste of time."

Guadagno: "Absolutely. It is an embarrassment that Phil Murphy has stood silently by the side of Sen. Menendez for two years while he's been under indictment."

Favorite fruit and vegetable

Murphy: Grapefruit and broccoli

Guadagno: Jersey tomatoes and cranberries

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 18, 2017 21:58 ET (01:58 GMT)