NJ Politics Digest: The Debates Were Not Very Good

Phil Murphy.

Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy went out swinging in their final debate Wednesday night but were once again light on details when asked about the No. 1 issue for voters: property taxes. Viewers did learn what their favorite fruits are, which is a great data point if you’re running for president of the Chiquita Banana company instead of New Jersey governor.

The bottom line is that at a time of deep fiscal problems, somewhat vague plans from the campaigns, and enough spin to enrich uranium coming from the candidates, the debates presented a golden opportunity to press Guadagno and Murphy for specifics that went beyond their favorite lines. By awarding the debates to ABC and CBS stations located outside New Jersey, the Election Law Enforcement Commission opted for a more superficial approach that basically let the candidates repeat in prime time their greatest hits from the campaign trail.

As an introduction to the candidates and their key differences, the debates were a real service to the many voters who are just tuning into the race. As a mechanism to get a clearer picture of how Guadagno and Murphy would govern, the debates hardly helped.

In both forums, the New York and Philadelphia moderators ran through a blizzard of questions with almost no follow-ups, no fact-checking and no allowances for the candidates to have extended, meaningful exchanges. Some of the questions were well researched and right on the money, but with only a minute for each answer, the candidates were all too ready with evasive maneuvers and brassy attack lines to fill up their airtime without having to reach for new substance.

Next time, ELEC (or “ELECT” as one of the New York moderators flubbingly called them Wednesday night) should consider putting New Jersey journalists in the driver’s seat. Michael Aron of NJTV was skilled and knowledgeable moderating two primary debates and the lieutenant gubernatorial debate this year, and he’s not the only one capable of refereeing these encounters in an illuminating way.

In other news, millions of dollars have been raised ahead of the 2018 congressional races in New Jersey as incumbents and challengers prepare for big campaigns that could draw national attention. Here’s the status of fundraising in all of New Jersey’s 12 districts, according to FEC reports filed in October. And the defense for Sen. Bob Menendez put up a witness Wednesday that contradicted earlier testimony given during his ongoing corruption trial.

Quote of the Day #1: “The ‘circuit buzzer’ — it sounds like an overstock item at Crazy Eddie’s.” — Phil Murphy on Kim Guadagno’s “circuit breaker” property tax plan.

Quote of the Day #2: “No. That was an easy one.” — Kim Guadagno on whether she’d appoint Gov. Chris Christie to the U.S. Senate.

Sparks Fly Between Guadagno, Murphy at Spirited Final Debate
The second and final gubernatorial debate between Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy was fiery and offbeat, a clash of wills featuring attacks, accusations of peddling falsehoods, interruptions, eye-rolls and a question about fruits and vegetables.
Alyana Alfaro, Observer Read more

Guadagno, Murphy Light on Details on Property Tax Plans
New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes have been the dominant issue for voters ahead of the Nov. 7 election, but through two general election debates, the major-party candidates for governor have left some important blanks in their plans of attack.
Christian Hetrick, Observer Read more

Cash Pours Into NJ Ahead of 2018 Congressional Races
New Jersey members of Congress are gearing up for the 2018 midterms, a race with significant national impact as Democrats attempt to regain a House majority and Republicans push to solidify their numbers.
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Former Menendez staffer contradicts prosecution testimony
A former staffer for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez gave testimony at his bribery trial Wednesday that differed from the prosecution’s version of events.
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Political fundraising laws must be updated, watchdog commission says
In what the state’s election watchdog says is an indication that campaign donors are sidestepping New Jersey’s pay-to-play laws, fundraising by party-based committees is down for the 2017 election cycle when compared with 2013, the last time the governor’s seat and full Legislature were up for grabs.
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NJ taxes bad for business — and not just because they’re expensive, report says
We’re No. 1! A new report by the Tax Foundation finds New Jersey has the most onerous, least competitive tax code in the entire country.
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What Does it Cost to Win or Lose an Election in New Jersey
The race in a South Jersey legislative district that should be an easy win for Democrats could turn out to be the most expensive in state history, fueled in part by independent spending that could also break records this year.
NJSpotlight Read more

How Trump is looming over N.J. governor’s race — and who that hurts
The race to succeed Gov. Chris Christie has become a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump, and a new poll finds that’s not especially good news for Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno.
NJ.com Read more

NJ State Police gets new leader for first time in almost 15 years
Col. Rick Fuentes, the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, will retire next month after nearly 40 years in law enforcement, Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday.
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What both N.J. senators want to do about Trump’s latest travel ban
U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker joined 27 other Senate Democrats Wednesday in introducing legislation to reverse President Donald Trump’s latest effort to restrict travel from several countries to the U.S.
NJ.com Read more

Will Climate Change Revive an Old Idea on Regional Coastal Commission
Could climate change lead the state to embrace an idea it shunned more than three decades ago: creation of a coastal commission?
NJSpotlight Read more

How Hurricane Sandy became steroids for Jersey Shore development
When Michael Savage trudged up to his beach bungalow near Tuckerton Bay days after Hurricane Sandy, the smell of rotting fish hit him immediately. Two freezers of tuna caught a few weeks before had turned over, spilling blood and fish into the floodwater and soaking furniture, rugs, and less replaceable belongings, like photos and baby books. The oak wood floors had buckled up like a mountain.
Inquirer Read more

NJ Politics Digest: The Debates Were Not Very Good