Murphy, Ciattarelli go head-to-head in first New Jersey gubernatorial debate

New Jersey’s gubernatorial election will take place in exactly five weeks. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli faced off Tuesday evening for the first governor’s debate.
Murphy, a first-term governor, and Ciattarelli, a former GOP assembly member, met at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark in a debate interrupted continuously by cheers and boos from the audience, despite pleas from moderators.
The candidates debated on a variety of topics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, taxes, gun reform and social issues.
"I'll go down to Trenton and downsize and streamline, modernize our state government which is inefficient, bloated and been corrupted by special interests,” Ciattarelli said.
Murphy meanwhile defended his record and called Ciattarelli out on votes he took as a state assemblyman.
"I hate pesky facts get in the way, but you know why the budget is up, assemblyman? Because of the mess you made… We haven't made a full pension payment in 25 years,” Murphy said.
Following the debate, each candidate took questions in what's called the “spin room.”
“There’s no question who won tonight – yours truly,” Murphy said.
Both candidates made pledges not to raise any state taxes for the next four years if they are in office.
“I will continue to ask New Jerseyans the question: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Ciattarelli asked.
The next gubernatorial debate is on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Lt. Gov. Shelia Oliver and Republican nominee for lieutenant governor Diane Allen will debate on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.