Candidates for New Jersey governor square off in 2 debates

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GALLOWAY -

Six candidates running to be the next governor of New Jersey squared off in two debates at Stockton University Tuesday evening in Galloway.

Republicans Kim Guadagno and Jack Ciattarelli debated each other first, followed by Democrats Phil Murphy, Jim Johnson, Ray Lesniak and John Wisniewski.

Assemblyman Ciattarelli referenced current Gov. Chris Christie’s low approval rating during the debate. Guadagno is Christie’s lieutenant governor.

“Come November, after eight years of Christie and Guadagno, the only way Republicans win is with a new messenger, new direction,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Guadagno repeatedly referred to her property tax proposal plan, which caps portions of homeowners’ property taxes when it exceeds 5 percent of their income.

“I’m the only candidate on this stage who proposed a plan, the circuit breaker, to help people in New Jersey who need the help the most now,” she said.

But Guadagno’s plan would create a $1.5 billion hold in the state budget, and Ciattarelli said that she had no way to pay for it.

“Any candidate who speaks to solve our property tax crisis without first addressing school funding is either oblivious or being disingenuous,” he said.

Candidates during the Democratic debate focused on the front-runner and biggest spender in the primary race, Phil Murphy, former ambassador to Germany.

“New Jersey is not for sale,” said candidate Jim Johnson.

“There’s only one candidate who keeps bidding up the price,” said candidate and New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski.

Murphy proposed creating a state-owned public bank to allow college students and small businesses to access loans at equitable rates. But Wisniewski slammed that plan.

“A state bank would be a disaster,” he said. “If Murphy wants to create a state bank, maybe he should go back to Wall Street.”

Murphy, a State House outsider, is currently leading above all other candidates, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

There are several other candidates running for governor who were not able to participate in the debate.

The Election Law Enforcement Commission only allows candidates in these debates who have at least $430,000 in their campaign funds. Critics say that these rules favor wealthy candidates.

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