Live Blog: Guadagno and Murphy Debate for the First Time

8:12 p.m.: Closing statements

That’s it. The first gubernatorial debate has come to an end.

In her closing remarks, Guadagno framed the race as being about lowering taxes and making New Jersey more affordable. “This election isn’t about Republicans. It isn’t about Democrats. It’s about affordability. It’s about making New Jersey a place that’s affordable to live again,” she said.

Murphy said voters must choose between new leadership or what would essentially be a third term of Chris Christie. “We can have more of the Chris Christie playbook, where the middle class is hollowed out…Or we can turn the page. We change leadership, and have leadership that celebrates the middle class.”

–Christian Hetrick

8:00 p.m.: Twitter Weighs In

On marijuana:

On the things that were left out:

7:53 p.m.: Who’s This Christie Person You Speak Of?

Guadagno and Murphy are getting acquainted for the first time with many New Jersey voters in this live broadcast, and it’s telling that Guadagno is publicly distancing herself from her boss, Christie, as she seeks to make a good first impression.

“Quite frankly, Phil, that sounds like the Chris Christie plan,” Guadagno said early in the debate, not in a flattering way, after Murphy indicated he would continue Christie’s blueprint to ramp up budget payments to the retirement system over 10 years.

“The inconvenient truth for Phil is that Chris Christie is not on the ballot in November — I am,” Guadagno said, vowing to “disrupt” the system.

Earlier in the debate, however, Guadagno made several references to former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who like Murphy was a Democrat and former Goldman Sachs executive.

— Salvador Rizzo

7:44 p.m.: Harvey Weinstein Cameo

Weinstein Company Mizchief Details

Harvey Weinstein. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The debate turns to a Californian in the news — the embattled Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who reportedly met with Murphy earlier this year and offered financial support for his campaign. Guadagno earlier in the day called Murphy a coward for declining to speak out against Weinstein until she raised the issue.

“I didn’t ask for, and I didn’t get one dime from this guy,” Murphy says. “What he’s done is completely outrageous and heinous.”

Murphy called on politicians across the country to make donations to women’s rights groups equal to Weinstein’s contributions.

Murphy acknowledged that an event with Weinstein had been in the works before the New York Times first reported on a decades-long pattern of sexual harassment alleged by actresses and other women in the film industry.

“He was going to be part of something and when we heard that something was happening we stopped it,” Murphy said. “We canceled the entire event.”

He then tried to turn the tables on Guadagno: “The Republican Governors Association, which has run a lot of ads against me, has gotten at least $60,000 this year, which I find completely outrageous considering the events of the last few days.”

Guadagno called Weinstein a “predator” and “an awful, awful man.” She commended the women who came forward with their accusations over the last week.

“I want to call Phil Murphy a coward,” she added. “Phil Murphy didn’t start to talk about Harvey Weinstein until after my campaign today listed the tens of thousands of dollars that he raised as a part of his position as finance chairman of the DNC. Shame on him!”

Murphy replied that, “I literally have no idea what she’s talking about.”

Murphy replied that, “I literally have no idea what she’s talking about.”

7:30 p.m.: Pretend You’re Debating Trump Now for a Bit …

The candidates are asked what they would tell President Trump if they had 30 seconds with him. That’s probably not a comment on the president’s attention span.

Guadagno: “I would tell the president please fund the infrastructure programs so we can do the Gateway tunnel.”

Murphy: ““I would implore the president as well to fund infrastructure, but I would also tell him to leave our Dreamers alone, leave our health care alone. All of the steps he’s taking are damaging real lives in this state.”

— Salvador Rizzo

7:23 p.m.: Money Talks

Not every political debate starts off with wonky questions such as whether to renew a 2 percent cap on interest arbitration for police and fire salary increases.

But the state’s burgeoning fiscal problems took center stage during the first 15 minutes of the debate – and the contrast between Guadagno and Murphy could not have been clearer.

Murphy once again declined to take a position on a law – known as the interest arbitration cap — that effectively caps police and fire salaries at 2 percent annually when local governments take their contract negotiations to arbitration. It expires at the end of the year, and Guadagno says renewing it is key because the cap has saved local taxpayers billions of dollars.

Murphy, who has been endorsed by the same New Jersey police and fire unions that have chafed at the law since Christie signed it, says he wants to wait for a task force report due at the end of the year so he can make a decision “based on the facts.” A version of that report was released recently, but Murphy said it didn’t count because not all members of the task force had weighed in on it.

“I would extend the arbitration cap because it saves the taxpayers billions of dollars of money. Not millions, but billions of dollars,” she said.

Guadagno has proposed a new tax credit funded by the state budget that she estimates would give the average household $800 a year to defray their property tax bill. Murphy says he would ramp up funding for public schools in the state budget, which would take the pressure off local governments and perhaps lower the property tax burden indirectly.

“Fifty-three percent of one’s property tax bill is public education,” Murphy said. “We will fully fund public education in this state.”

The state pension system’s precarious state also came up during the first few moments of the debate. Murphy was asked how he would fulfill his pledge to return the state to full payments every year to the retirement funds, and Guadagno said that while she would honor the pension benefits already accrued by nearly 800,000 beneficiaries, she indicated that those just now entering the state workforce cannot be promised the kind of pensions workers receive now because those are no longer financially tenable.

— Salvador Rizzo

7:03 p.m.: What the Polls Say

Phil Murphy enters the debate with a double-digit lead over Kim Guadagno, according to the most recent polls.

Monmouth University poll released last week gave Murphy a 14-point advantage over Guadagno among likely voters. A Quinnipiac University poll put out a couple weeks earlier pegged Murphy’s lead at 25 points. Earlier polls of registered voters had Murphy with hefty leads of more than 20 points.

Polls have consistently shown that there’s little interest in the New Jersey governor’s race. Nearly half of likely voters were still unfamiliar with the candidates, according to the Monmouth poll.

The debate is being broadcast live on ABC in New York and Philadelphia. That could boost exposure for the largely unknown candidates.

— Christian Hetrick

7 p.m.: Where to Watch

ABC local affiliates are carrying the debate in the New York area on channel 7. In Philadelphia, the debate will air on channel 6. Online viewers can watch the debate on Twitterabc7ny.com and 6abc.com.

ABC local affiliates are carrying the debate in the New York area on channel 7. In Philadelphia, the debate will air on channel 6. Online viewers can watch the debate on Twitterabc7ny.com and 6abc.com.

6:50 p.m. Christie’s Date With a TiVo in Mendham

Gov. Chris Christie isn’t excited to watch the debate between the candidates running to replace him.

The governor told reporters in Trenton that gubernatorial debates don’t get particularly good ratings, and that it’s the coverage after the event that matters most. Christie said he may not even watch the debate live, which is why he’s recording it on TiVo.

The governor told reporters in Trenton that gubernatorial debates don’t get particularly good ratings, and that it’s the coverage after the event that matters most. Christie said he may not even watch the debate live, which is why he’s recording it on TiVo.

Christie said he cared more about the 2016 presidential debates because he was involved in President Trump’s debate prep. He’s not helping Guadagno prepare for her debates, he said.

“I have not been asked, so the answer is no,” Christie said.

6:40 p.m.: Demonstrators Crowd Outside NJPAC

Protesters outside NJPAC. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Both the Murphy and Guadagno camps have protesters outside of NJPAC, bashing the opposing side for policy issues and campaign promises.

Murphy supporters are criticizing Guadagno for her ties to Christie, the unpopular current governor. Guadagno supporters are bashing Murphy for his plan to raise $1.3 billion in taxes if elected, parroting arguments that have been heard throughout the campaign so far.

— Alyana Alfaro

6:30 p.m.: Game On

After months of attacking each other from afar, Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno will debate face-to-face for the first time tonight.

Observer New Jersey is at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where the two major-party candidates for governor will square off at 7 p.m. Follow along for live coverage from Salvador Rizzo, Alyana Alfaro and Christian Hetrick.

Observer New Jersey is at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where the two major-party candidates for governor will square off at 7 p.m. Follow along for live coverage from Salvador Rizzo, Alyana Alfaro and Christian Hetrick.

The debate could be a big opportunity for the candidates to frame the rest of the race with a month to go until the Nov. 7 election. Nearly half of likely voters are still unfamiliar with both candidates, according to a Monmouth University poll released last week.

— Christian Hetrick

Live Blog: Guadagno and Murphy Debate for the First Time