Gov. Race Tightens As Candidates Make Final Appeals

On Nov. 2, the voters of New Jersey are set to elect the next governor.

Not only is there the race for governor; the contest for lieutenant governor goes hand-in-hand. The two gubernatorial candidates are incumbent governor Phil Murphy (D) and challenger Jack Ciattarelli (R).

Phil Murphy, the former US Ambassador to Germany, has been governor since 2017, and Ciattarelli is a Republican former member of the state assembly. This gubernatorial election is especially important because, as ballotpedia.com writes, “This election (alongside the 2021 legislative elections) will help determine New Jersey’s trifecta status for the next two years. Heading into the election, New Jersey is a Democratic trifecta, with Democrats holding the governor’s office and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.” With so much riding on this election, voters are hoping to have a clear concept of who the candidates are.

Ciattarelli is the Republican candidate, and the challenger in this election. He is a former member of the state assembly, having taken office in 2011.

On his website, jack4nj.com, Ciattarelli’s mission statement reads, “It’s time for common sense. It’s time to solve our problems. It’s time to build the New Jersey we deserve.” As the challenger in this race, he is trying to bring up inciting change that he believes New Jersey needs in his campaign.

Some of his biggest plans are to lower property taxes, build a stronger economy, stand with law enforcement and make healthcare more affordable. One of his largest issues with Murphy has been over taxes. This is because Murphy had said in the past that if high taxes are your issue, then New Jersey “probably isn’t your state.” However, this quote has been taken out of context, as it comes from a conference with business leaders, not homeowners and income tax payers.

Ciattarelli says that he intends to lower taxes for all income brackets in the state. Another one of his stated goals, should he be elected, is to lighten COVID-19 restrictions. He has criticized Gov. Murphy’s COVID-19 response, as he believes it has hurt businesses. He has said that he would lift the current mask mandate for students if elected.

As for Murphy, as the incumbent, he seems to be leaning into the status quo, and is focusing more on campaigning on the successes of his administration in the past four years. On his website, murphy4nj.com, he states his main focuses are keeping up his COVID-19 response, creating more affordable housing, and advocating gun safety, criminal justice reform, property tax relief, and voting rights.

As far as New Jersey’s average opinion is concerned, as the state is generally safely blue, Murphy does have the advantage over Ciattarelli on most issues, including his handling of COVID-19, the economy, and creating jobs. As for what Murphy has said about Ciattarelli in his campaign so far, Murphy has been trying to link Ciattarelli to former President Donald Trump and would enact a similar agenda that the former president did in the state. But as stated before, Murphy is mostly sticking with reiterating what has worked for him in his tenure as governor thus far.

According to polls, on Monmouth University’s website, it is reported that, “About 1 in 4 registered voters…are either undecided or only leaning toward a candidate right now.” Monmouth University’s Polling Institute has been reporting on the gubernatorial polls of the race so far.

As stated previously, Murphy does hold the biggest advantage on COVID-19 protocols, and as the Monmouth University polls indicate, a majority of voters support stricter COVID safety protocols, like those Murphy has been keeping in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey. As of Sep. 23, Murphy’s approval rating stands at a little over fifty percent.

Another advantage Murphy holds over Ciattarelli is that Murphy has a significant advantage when it comes to voters of color. One key issue of Ciattarelli’s campaign thus far is that many undecided voters do not have an opinion on him and his views so far. There are still a few weeks until the election, and this will be the time for him and Murphy to really try to get the attention of those undecided voters and sway them toward their respective side.

Conversely, few voters are aware who is running for lieutenant governor. The incumbent lieutenant governor and Murphy’s running mate is Sheila Y. Oliver.

According to Gov. Murphy’s website, she is “the first woman of color to serve in a statewide elected office in New Jersey history.” She was also elected to the New Jersey assembly in 2003.
Oliver’s challenger for the seat is Republican Diane Allen, a former New Jersey State senator. She served as a senator from 1998 to 2018. Also, she served as deputy Republican conference leader of the Senate of New Jersey for one year. She is also a former journalist and broadcaster.

It is somewhat uncommon for a challenger to win over an incumbent in any election of any size, but the citizens of New Jersey will have to wait until Nov. 2 to cast their vote and discover who will be their governor for the next four years.

Murphy and Ciattarelli’s second and final debate took place the night of Oct. 12.