Christie Looms Large as New Jersey Casts Votes for Governor

By Kate King Features Dow Jones Newswires

As New Jersey voters went to the ballot box on Tuesday, many had departing Gov. Chris Christie on their minds as they made their choice for the state's next governor.

Continue Reading Below

Voters who showed up at polling locations expressed discontent with Mr. Christie, rising property taxes and the national political scene. Recent polls show Mr. Christie's job-approval rating had fallen to 15% among New Jersey voters.

That has helped give New Jersey Democrat Phil Murphy a boost in polls, which have shown him leading Republican Kim Guadagno by double digits throughout the campaign. He has made a point of tying Ms. Guadagno to Mr. Christie, for whom she served as lieutenant governor since 2010.

Several voters interviewed Tuesday said they were supporting Mr. Murphy because they wanted a change from Mr. Christie. Ocean Township resident Bill Rosenblatt said he didn't believe the last eight years of Republican leadership have benefited the state.

"I don't think the Republican concept for the economy -- that we cut taxes and hope for some economic stimulus -- has worked," said Mr. Rosenblatt, 69 years old. "I don't think Kim has stepped out from Christie's shadow."

Judith Slover-Zipf, also of Ocean Township, said she wasn't bothered by Ms. Guadagno's association with Mr. Christie.

Continue Reading Below

"I don't think when you're in an administration you're necessarily always with that person," said Ms. Slover-Zipf, who voted for Ms. Guadagno because she supports a piece of legislation that is important to her work as a nurse practitioner. "You do what you have to do when you're working."

A win by Mr. Murphy would signal a dramatic change in direction for the state from Mr. Christie's administration. Mr. Murphy has pledged to increase state funding in several areas where Mr. Christie has held back, including public pensions and schools, higher education and transportation.

Mr. Murphy has also adopted a more progressive stance on social and economic issues. He supports raising the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour, legalizing and taxing marijuana and increasing taxes on the state's millionaires.

A surprise victory by Ms. Guadagno would be a devastating blow to Democrats -- in New Jersey and nationally -- who view the governor's election as the front line of the resistance against the Republican Party and Mr. Trump.Ms. Guadagno said she didn't vote for Mr. Trump because of the video footage that surfaced during the campaign of him talking about groping women. But in recent weeks she has adopted a similar tone to Mr. Trump on immigration and has said the state would comply with federal law when it came to undocumented residents.

Ms. Guadagno promised to use a more collaborative approach to governing than what Mr. Christie is known for, but she would likely continue his legacy of limiting state spending to keep property taxes in check.

New Jersey and Virginia are the only states electing governors Tuesday. Polls close in New Jersey at 8 p.m.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, is predicting low voter turnout for several reasons, including Mr. Murphy's long projected lead in the polls and the fact that local issues have been overshadowed by national news.

"Even habitual voters say they don't know much about either candidate and are just pulling the lever for either the Democrat or the Republican, " Mr. Murray said. "Voters pretty much decided early on what the outcome was going to be and they just haven't paid attention."

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 07, 2017 18:13 ET (23:13 GMT)