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Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Ciattarelli challenges Murphy to an early debate

Republican says voters need to see both candidates debate before vote-by-mail ballots go out

By David Wildstein, August 17 2021 9:21 am

Saying that tens of thousands of New Jerseyans will cast vote-by-mail ballots before the first gubernatorial debate, Republican Jack Ciattarelli wants Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy to debate him before voting begins on September 18.

“Let’s add at least one debate as soon as you get back from your vacation,” Ciattarelli told Murphy in a letter.

As recipients of matching funds under the state’s gubernatorial public financing law, Murphy and Ciattarleli are obligated to participate in two debates officially sanctioned by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. The first one is not scheduled until September 28, when they will meet at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark for a debate sponsored by channel 7 in New York, channel 6 in Philadelphia and New Jersey Advance Publications.

“Because of the expanded vote by mail law you signed, our debates take place after people who vote by mail get their ballots. Unfortunately, the state didn’t take this into account,” Ciattarelli said to Murphy.  “By the time we do take the stage together on September 28, it’s likely that tens of thousands of people will have already cast their ballots.”

The second gubernatorial debate will air on NJ PBS and is tentatively scheduled for October.  The lieutenant governor debate will be sponsored by the New Jersey Globe, the Rebovich Institute of Politics at Rider University, and Project Ready.

“Voting in this election will be less than 30 days away. Logistics should not stand in the way of this important tradition for democracy, as several organizations, including The League of Women Voters, have already expressed interest in hosting debates between us,” Ciattarleli said. “I’ll even rent the space and meet you in townhalls across the state like Lincoln-Douglas”

In his letter, Ciattarelli mocked Murphy for taking a vacation at his home in Italy.

“The villa sounds luxurious. Twenty-three rooms, horse stables, tennis courts, a pool…and servant’s quarters,” he said.  “A multi-million dollar home that pays only $12,600 in property taxes?! Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. I know a great many $400,000 homeowners in New Jersey who pay a lot more.”

But Ciattarelli’s letter also took a serious tone.

“Residents are outraged by property taxes, saddened by all the closed businesses, and concerned about rising crime. They want to hear about solutions – mine and yours,” the Republican candidate wrote.  “By the way, sorry to tell you, your ‘if you don’t like it, leave’ remark doesn’t go over well with New Jerseyans.”

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