The second – and final – debate in the New Jersey gubernatorial race was another contentious battle between Democratic Governor Phil Murphy and Republican contender Jack Ciatarelli.
In fact, the first blow came minutes after the whole affair Tuesday night at Rowan University, when Ciattarelli congratulated Murphy on the Yankees’ win over the Yankees in the playoffs—a very minor criticism in Massachusetts. pedigree.
It was the first of many punches the two candidates threw at each other at their last chance to discuss each other on live television three weeks before Election Day on November 2.
So who won this round?
“Despite some spirited blows, neither side delivered the knockout necessary to move the needle,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Survey Institute.
And that could be good news for Murphy, who continues to lead Ciattarelli in the public opinion polls, despite a thin margin.
“At this point, it comes down to the underlying enthusiasm, which is as much a product of the national political environment as it has to do with the particular New Jersey race at the moment,” Murray said.
However, Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Surveys and associate professor of research at Rutgers University, noted that Ciattarelli, a former state assemblyman, “is leaning very strongly toward the center in this debate” after taking some right-wing positions in previous months.
Koning said this included Ciatarelli “who directs his own history as a moderate Republican,” expressing his personal support for coronavirus vaccination, saying he would support the enshrining of Roe v. Wade in state law, and the definition of “white privilege” after he refused to do so in a recent radio interview. .
Will that move the needle for Ciattarelli in the blue-eyed Garden State?
“Having been in the shadow of (former President Donald) Trump for most of the election campaign, it remains to be seen in these final weeks whether Chattarelli’s return to the ideological milieu is too little, too late for voters who need to put him in place,” Koning said.
Here’s a look at Murphy and Ciatarelli’s biggest hits on Tuesday and the biggest takeaways from the hour-long debate:
Ciattarelli has often criticized Murphy as a “king” who has imposed coronavirus restrictions that have been too harsh.
On Tuesday, he did not paint him as royalty – only a hypocrite. Ciattarelli pointed to recent reports that Murphy and other attendees did not wear masks at an indoor ball hosted by Garden State Equality in Asbury Park last weekend.
Attendees were asked to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry. But Monmouth County currently has “high” rates of coronavirus transmission and hiding in such a setting is recommended, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while Murphy lifted statewide mask mandates, he urged people to wear masks in high-risk settings.
“I think our leadership needs to be consistent in times like these,” Ciattarelli said.
Murphy suggested that he did not wear a mask because he was speaking on stage.
“Are you wearing a mask now? We’re on stage,” Murphy said to Ciatarelli.
Ciattarelli responded: “It was in a large enclosed gathering. Nobody was wearing a mask.”
As for his own plans to fight the pandemic, Ciattarelli stressed that he personally encourages people to get vaccinated, but emphasized that he is against vaccine and mask mandates.
“I think my role as governor when elected is to provide all the information people need to make an informed decision. Then the choice is theirs.
Murphy suggested Ciattarelli’s opinions are serious.
“The tragedy today is that there is a playbook,” said the governor. We know vaccines work. We know the work of masking. For people to ignore it (and) to ignore that evidence is needlessly endangering lives.”
Abortion has become a high-profile issue in recent weeks after the US Supreme Court made it illegal in Texas when judges refused to hear a case on the matter.
At about the same time, New Jersey legislators introduced the Reproductive Freedom Act to enshrine a woman’s right to abortion in state law.
Murphy says lawmakers need to send this law to his office, fearing that Roe v. Wade — which grants women the right to abortion in the United States — will be overturned.
“This has gone from something people thought was just a theory and theory to the current and existing danger,” the governor said.
Murphy’s position on abortion was not in question. Ciattarelli’s comments, however, were a bit surprising.
Ciattarelli says he opposes the New Jersey bill because it goes too far, and is in favor of banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He also said he doubted the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade.
But the former legislator stressed that he believed in a woman’s right to choose 20 weeks ago, and said he would support writing a state law to enshrine Roe v. Wade’s protections in New Jersey if it was overturned.
“If that’s what we have to do here in New Jersey to protect a woman’s right to choose, we’ll do it,” Ciatarelli said.
In the state with the highest property taxes in the state, it was no surprise that taxes were once again a hot topic on Tuesday.
Ciattarelli has not developed a specific plan to cut taxes. Instead, he said he would reformulate the public school funding formula to lower property taxes, with scant additional details.
During the debate, Ciattarelli defended his school’s funding plans against criticism that it would cut court-imposed funding for poorer areas, saying a million-dollar homeowner in Jersey City pays less property taxes than someone who owns a $400,000 home in Toms River.
“It’s not fair,” Cetarelli said. “We need a more equitable distribution of aid.”
But Murphy insisted that it would disadvantage poorer students, especially in communities of color.
“If you are in a black or brown community or you are a black or brown boy there, the rug will be pulled out from under you,” said the governor. “This is a move between us and them.”
Trump is largely unpopular in the Democratic heavyweight New Jersey, but he is still deeply loved by most of the Republican Party. This can complicate matters for a GOP candidate seeking a statewide office where it is necessary to revitalize a base but also to pick mid-way voters, or, if they are lucky, a healthy number of Democrats in order to win an election campaign.
Thus, it is not surprising that Ciattarelli has a sophisticated view on Trump. In 2015, he called Trump a “charlatan” who was “out of touch with Lincoln’s party” and said he was “unfit to be president of the United States.”
So where does he stand now from the former president? Ciattarelli had a joke for that Tuesday.
“After 27 years of marriage, I want you to know that Melinda has called me worse than an imposter many times,” he said, referring to his wife.
Ciatarelli then praised Trump for his handling of the economy and border security, for being “strict” with China, and for moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which broke decades of US policy. He also said he disagrees with Trump on offshore drilling, financing the Gateway Tunnel project, and ending state and local property tax deductions over $10,000 (all issues with the New Jersey connection).
But Cetarelli did not say whether he would support Trump if he made another offer to the White House in 2024. He did not say whether he would welcome the former president if Trump offered him.
“I get out there and campaign on my own,” Citarelli said. “I will win my own election.”
Murphy has made linking Ciatarelli to Trump a key part of his campaign, saying his opponent’s election would send the state “backward.”
Ciattarelli responded Tuesday by saying Murphy tends to blame Trump or former Governor Chris Christie – both Republicans. and vow a vow.
“When I take office in January, I won’t blame the Murphy administration for anything,” Citarelli said. “We’ll get the job done.”
The crowd on Tuesday was as wild and boisterous as the one gathered for the first governor-level debate on Sept. 28.
There were chants of “Four More Years” in support of Murphy and constant jeers from the pro-Ciatarelli group as the governor attempted to make a closing statement.
“A hockey debate broke out,” Murphy once said.
Both candidates had to ask the moderators to repeat their questions several times simply because the audience became overwhelmed by them. Even brokers weren’t safe.
“The reason you can’t hear me is because your supporters applaud you,” NJ PBS’s David Cruz told Ciattarelli at one point.
This was immediately followed by boos and harassment aimed at Cruise.
You could argue that both debates reflect the simmering political divide in the United States – and how specific and controversial this race is at times.
“The audience was noisy,” Citarelli told reporters after Tuesday’s relationship ended. “We applaud their enthusiasm, but it made it even more difficult.”
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