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Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor. (Photo: NJ Globe File Photo).

This week in the gubernatorial race

Spats at the debate, poll numbers from Stockton, and more

By Joey Fox, October 01 2021 4:45 pm

‘I won the debate,’ says Murphy, Ciattarelli, audience

Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli met in front of a rather rowdy audience on Tuesday for the first of two scheduled gubernatorial debates, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

Each candidate hit on the themes they’ve been previewing for months: Murphy said Ciattarelli is campaigning like the governor of Texas, Ciattarelli said Murphy wants New Jersey to become more like California, and both promised voters their own positions are sensible and those of their opponent are unthinkable.

Like bread on Passover, Murphy says taxes won’t rise

Among the more notable moments of the debate was Murphy’s pledge not to raise or create taxes in his second term – a pledge he insisted he’s made before, if not in so many words.

But the governor was vague about what exactly such a pledge might entail. Asked directly whether he would sacrifice other parts of his agenda in order to prevent raising taxes, Murphy demurred. And Ciattarelli wasted no time at the debate hitting Murphy over taxes anyways, repeating Murphy’s oft-quoted line that “if taxes are your issue, we’re probably not your state.”

Ciattarelli has his Giuliani-ferret moment

On the issue of systemic racism and education, it was Ciattarelli’s turn to be vague, giving indistinct answers against so-called “critical race theory” at the debate and dodging a question about white privilege in a WNYC interview yesterday.

“I don’t really understand the question, so either [the caller will] have to go further in explaining the basis of his question, or we can move on,” Ciattarelli said in the interview with Brian Lehrer. When the caller expanded his question into a critique of Ciattarelli, Ciattarelli dismissed him: “It sounds like the person who called in has a number of issues.”

Advertisements: Murphy airs new ad. Murphy airs new ad.

Murphy debuted a new TV ad, “Repeated,” that does its best to link Ciattarelli with former president Donald Trump, an ongoing mission of the Murphy campaign.

The ad plays footage of Trump saying that “children are almost immune from this disease [Covid],” followed by a clip of Ciattarelli similarly saying that “children are not vulnerable to this virus.” 

It then hits Ciattarelli for his opposition to vaccine and mask mandates in schools, an issue that Ciattarelli has tried to use against Murphy despite polls showing relatively high support for Murphy’s positions.

Polls: Put your stock(ton) in a Murphy lead

Stockton University released a new poll on Wednesday giving Murphy a 9-point lead, 50-41% – the first independent poll of the campaign to find Ciattarelli within single digits, though of course only barely. The poll falls somewhere between Monmouth University’s most recent poll, which found Murphy leading by 13 points, and two Republican-sponsored polls which each put the incumbent up by only 3 points.

The poll also found a statewide referendum on whether to legalize gambling on college sports narrowly failing, 40-45%. The ballot issue, which was approved by the legislature in June, has largely flown under the radar so far.

Endorsements: Murphy the newest member of the Brady Bunch

Murphy was endorsed on Monday by Brady PAC, one of the country’s more prominent gun control organizations. The governor had already gotten endorsements from Moms Demand Action and gun control advocate Fred Guttenberg, and has slammed Ciattarelli for his more lenient stances on guns.

Murphy also got the backing on Tuesday of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group that had previously been critical of Murphy’s policies for being insufficiently environmentalist. And just yesterday, Clean Water Action endorsed Murphy, a repeat of their 2017 endorsement.

While it’s not news from this week, endorsements also became an unexpected sticking point at Tuesday’s debate, with Ciattarelli deriding Murphy for failing to get the Fraternal Order of Police’s endorsement – and Murphy hitting back by noting that Ciattarelli hasn’t been endorsed by any law enforcement unions, period. (Murphy has two: the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association and the State Troopers Fraternal Association.)

Fundraising: Matching funds? In THIS economy?

Murphy got $686,244 and Ciattarelli got $748,548 from today’s distribution of matching funds, for a total of $1.4 million in new funding. Murphy reached 84% of his total threshold on fundraising, and Ciattarelli reached 60% of his. In total, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) can distribute approximately $6 million more in matching funds.

Coming soon: If you’re reading this, you have to watch the Globe-hosted debate

On the heels of this week’s gubernatorial debate comes the campaign season’s one and only lieutenant gubernatorial debate, between Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Oliver and former State Sen. Diane Allen. 

The debate, hosted by none other than the New Jersey Globe, will be held at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, October 5. It will be live-streamed via the New Jersey Globe, Facebook Live, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn, and rebroadcast on 77 WABC radio.

Murphy will also appear on the New Jersey Globe Power Hour on Talk Radio 77 WABC at 4 p.m. tomorrow, alongside Emmy Award-winning TV host Steve Adubato.

There will additionally be a gubernatorial town hall tomorrow, hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but only Ciattarelli will be in attendance; Murphy never responded to the organization’s invitation to participate.

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