No, it wasn’t a baseball game, although Jack Ciattarelli did make a crack about Phil Murphy rooting for the Red Sox.
Still, in the sporting tradition, let’s take a look at some of the wins and losses for each candidate in tonight’s debate.
A win for Murphy:
“You claim to be Mr. Law and Order. You have no endorsements from law enforcement.”
This was a hard right to Ciattarelli’s jaw.
A common Republican point these days is that Democrats support “defunding the police,” and therefore, are indifferent to public safety.
But as the governor noted, he’s been endorsed by two police unions and Ciattarelli has been endorsed by none.
Ciattarelli’s comeback was that “local police” are not endorsing Murphy. Fair point, but no police endorsements are no police endorsements.
This issue, however, also led to a loss for Murphy.
Reaching back to Ciattarelli’s days as a Somerset County freeholder, the governor said the Republican supported actions that led to the elimination of 10 jobs in the county sheriff’s office. There was no context offered, so unless you were there, you had no idea what this was about. Not persuasive at all.
A win for Ciattarelli:
“You never hear him talking about property taxes.”
The GOP challenger was right about that. Murphy has not talked about, or addressed, property taxes head on. Nothing about that is easy, but when people in New Jersey complain about high taxes, more times than not, their gripe is a property tax bill of $12,000 or more. The issue does deserve more attention.
Ciattarelli has spent a good part of the campaign – and has run ads – attacking Murphy for saying that if taxes are your main issue, New Jersey is not your state.
When those comments popped up tonight, Murphy tried to diffuse things by saying that under Ciattarelli, New Jersey won’t be a state for you unless you are a corporate CEO. Or something like that. His defense made no sense.
Call that another loss for Murphy.
Ciattarelli struggled at times to defend himself from Murphy’s attacks.
On that score, here are two losses for Ciattarelli.
Early in the debate, the Republican was asked about his comments that children are unlikely to catch COVID. This had to do with Ciattarelli’s opposition to a school mask mandate.
Apparently realizing this was an untenable position, he said, “Maybe I could have said that more perfect.” Ouch.
And then there was Ciattarelli’s attendance at a Donald Trump-inspired “Stop the Steal” rally in Bedminster after the election.
Murphy has run TV commercials showing Ciattarelli speaking with a “Stop the Steal” sign behind him.
The Republican a bit lamely defended himself by saying he was told that the rally was about the 2021 election, not the 2020 election. Since it occurred three weeks after the 2020 vote and on Trump’s home turf, that explanation seemed a bit dubious.
It’s always nice to see humor in debates and Murphy tried to interject some.
Ciattarelli likes saying that such touchy subjects as explicit sex education should be addressed not in the classroom, but around the kitchen table.
That prompted Murphy to say there must be “a lot going on” in Ciattarelli’s kitchen.
Not amused, the challenger shot back, “Isn’t that the job of the parent?”
As the debate was winding down, Ciattarelli made some news.
It had to do with pot.
Voters endorsed legalizing recreational marijuana last year by about 2-1.
“This did not belong on the ballot,” Ciattarelli said, adding that he backs decriminalization, not legalization.
Murphy, a bit surprised, pointed out the margin of victory for legalization.
“I think they have buyer’s remorse,” Ciattarelli speculated.