NJ Governor’s Race Heats Up
Things have heated up in the last month before the November 7th election. Between debates, endorsements and advertising, New Jerseyans are watching both campaigns empty their arsenals.
Phil Murphy and Kim Guadagno squared off in their first debate last week, a contest that was moderated by news anchors from New York and Philadelphia. Most experts conclude that while Guadagno – New Jersey’s sitting Lieutenant Governor – performed well, the fact that Murphy – President Obama’s Ambassador to Germany – held his own and did not implode means the debate will have limited or minimal impact on polls which show Murphy maintaining a sizable lead. Credit to Guadagno for staying on-message and for weaving property taxes into her response to seemingly every question. Murphy effectively tied Guadagno to unpopular incumbent Chris Christie. Pete McDonnough, who was Communications Director to Governor Christie Whitman may have summed it up best when he said, “nobody ever really ‘wins’ a debate – you can only lose – and nobody lost tonight. There wasn’t any blood left on the stage.”
The candidates will have another chance to go for the jugular tonight, and while we’re pleased that the panel of moderators will finally have local representation, in the form of the Record’s Al Doblin, we’re making a birthday wish to someday see a Nick Acocella/Michael Aron/Max Pizarro-hosted affair.
The candidates for Lieutenant Governor – Democratic State Assemblywoman Shiela Oliver and Republican Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo – squared off last week in their only contest. Much of the debate focused on immigration and race and both candidates largely stayed on message and did no harm to their running mates.
Murphy keeps piling up high-profile endorsements. The morning after last week’s debate he was joined by former US Senator, Secretary of State and presidential candidate John Kerry. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam vet, joined Murphy at a VFW post in Clifton and echoed Murphy’s call to restructure New Jersey’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and refocus its mission exclusively on veterans services. Former VPOTUS Joe Biden was in New Jersey on Thursday to stump for Murphy; during an appearance together, Biden took the Guadagno campaign to task for a vicious campaign ad (see below), blamed President Trump and Governor Christie for “gutter politics” and linked the heated state of politics to Trump’s unpopularity in New Jersey. Those comments drew a rebuke from Christie who accused Biden of trying to “remain relevant so he can run for President again.”
Former Vice President Al Gore stumped for Murphy (as well as D11 Senate candidate Vin Gopal). And we expect to see former President Obama and last year’s Democratic nominee for President Hillary Clinton in New Jersey stumping with Murphy, who – by the way – enjoys a 5-1 cash advantage and a 15 point lead according to a new FDU Public Mind poll.
The Battle of the Airwaves
Attempting to seize on comments made by Murphy during last week’s debate, the Guadagno campaign released a vicious ad alleging that Murphy would protect undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, including “deranged murderers.” Murphy has stated repeatedly on the campaign trail that he would push back against the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. During last week’s debate, he went further, saying that he would make New Jersey a sanctuary state if necessary. Guadagno’s ad suggests that Murphy would protect people like the Peruvian illegal immigrant who was convicted in 2007 for killing three people in a Newark schoolyard – a case that drew statewide and regional attention. Cries of foul rained down on the Guadagno campaign from all quarters, including Murphy, US Senator Cory Booker, State Senator and former Governor Dick Codey, and Biden. The ad certainly dominated the news cycle, but it remains to be seen if it will have the effect the Guadagno campaign intended.
The Murphy campaign is also out with a new ad called Bridges, which reminds voters of the link between his opponent and unpopular outgoing governor Chris Christie by focusing on the Bridgegate scandal. Not surprisingly, Bridges has the Guadagno campaign crying foul.
Bayonne Mayoral Kicks Off
The port city of Bayonne, located east of Newark and connected to Staten Island, NY via the Bayonne Bridge, will hold its mayoral election next May and the battle for leadership of the city of 63,000 is taking shape.
Former State Assemblyman and retired firefighter Jason O’Donnell officially launched his campaign last week with a boisterous event at the Knights of Columbus hall. O’Donnell was quickly endorsed by the Laborers’ International Union of North America in a statement by its influential Vice President & Eastern Regional Manager Ray Pocino.
Incumbent Jimmy Davis – a retired cop – launched his campaign for reelection with a large event last week as well. US Senator Bob Menendez and a bevy of Hudson lawmakers flanked Davis at his kick-off.
The race will be an opportunity for O’Donnell to avenge his former boss, Mark Smith, who was defeated by Davis four years ago. The contest will also test Davis and the Hudson County machine against an affable and well-known Son of Bayonne.
NJ Senate Fills Vacancies
New Jersey’s State Senate welcomed two new members recently. Democrat Colin Bell and Republican Kristin Corrado were sworn in by Senate President Steve Sweeney and will serve through the end of 2017. Both are running for four-year Senate terms in New Jersey’s upcoming general election.
Bell succeeds the late Senator Jim Whelan, who died suddenly in August. His 2nd Legislative District includes Atlantic County and Atlantic City. A former Atlantic County prosecutor and freeholder, Bell will face Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown in a race that is neck-and-neck according to a recent Stockton University poll.
Kristin Corrado occupies the seat vacated by Kevin O’Toole who was appointed by Governor Christie to the Chairmanship of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Corrado’s 40th District seat includes portions of Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic Counties. The former Passaic County Clerk faces off against Democrat Thomas Duch for a seat that is considered safe for Republicans.