UPDATED 1:02 PM PT – Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Incumbent New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and his Republican opponent Jack Ciattarelli duke it out in the second and final debate. New Jersey has not re-elected a Democrat for a second term as governor since 1977. On Tuesday, Gov. Murphy made his final pitch to the people of New Jersey as to why he deserves to break that trend.
Ciattarelli suggested if Murphy breaks the nearly half a century trend and becomes re-elected, New Jersey would continue its downward spiral of expensive living and lack of services.
“If you don’t mind a governor who says if taxes are your issue, we’re probably not your state. If you don’t mind a governor who says he wants to make New Jersey the California of the East Coast, vote for Phil Murphy,” said Ciattarelli. “My plan is very simple. I want to lower property taxes with a new school funding formula. I want to create more jobs by making New Jersey the best place in the country to do business.”
However, the dominating topic in the debate was how the two candidates plan to handle COVID. Murphy has faced mounting criticism for his handling of the virus considering New Jersey has the second highest per capita death rate from COVID-19 in the whole U.S. under his watch.
A clip from my Up Close with Bill Ritter interview. No one said handling a pandemic would be easy. But the least we expect from our Governor is consistency, leadership & competency. We can do better. When I’m Governor, we will.
— Jack Ciattarelli (@Jack4NJ) October 11, 2021
Nursing home deaths at the start of the pandemic, like that of neighboring New York, has bogged the governor down in federal investigations. Nearly a third of all deaths in New Jersey came from the nursing homes. When asked why he hasn’t looked into the issue on his own, the governor deflected and implied his opponent is an anti-vaccine advocate.
“This is quite clear. The tragedy today is there is a playbook. We know vaccines work. We know masking works,” Murphy went on. “For folks to ignore that, disregard that playbook, is putting lives needlessly at risk. It feels like an answer you’d see in a debate in Texas or Florida.”
Although, Ciattarelli has claimed he’s neither anti-vaccine nor anti-mask. He is, however, pro-individual liberty on the issues. The former assemblyman said he thinks the best way to get more people vaccinated isn’t by using the government to force them, but rather by giving them proper information and letting them choose.
“I am vaccinated. I promoted my vaccination. I encourage people to get vaccinated,” said Ciattarelli. “And, I just believe that my role as governor, when elected, is to provide the information people need to make an informed decision. I will always promote, preserve, and protect the public health and safety and get people the information they need, and then the choice is theirs.”
Polls have showed Murphy is the odds on favorite to win the re-election, with the latest showing him nine points ahead of Ciattarelli. However, the race has inched closer since May when Murphy had a 26-point advantage.
In the meantime, New Jersey voters will head to the polls starting Oct. 23 with the final day of voting coming to a close on Nov. 2.