Boos, jeers and then cheers erupted tonight as Phil Murphy referenced white supremacy and Confederate flags in his closing statement during his second – and last – debate with Jack Ciattarelli.
Ciattarelli’s supporters in the audience at Rowan University appeared more boisterous throughout; things reached their zenith with Murphy’s closing statement.
His talk of white supremacy and the like was designed to tie Ciattarelli to Donald Trump. This has been a constant Democratic campaign theme.
The governor made similar comments at a campaign rally a few days ago in Fair Lawn, but that was a friendly audience.
Boos, obviously from Ciattarelli supporters, began tonight as soon as Murphy mentioned white supremacy.
Then cheering began from Murphy supporters.
As his statement ended, the governor was forced to practically yell above the din, saying being governor has been the highlight of his life and that he needs four more years.
Ciattarelli delivered his closing statement first, so he was literally defenseless.
That’s how things ended.
The beginning had both candidates on the defensive.
Ciattarelli opposes mask and vaccine mandates. So he was asked how he plans to keep people safe, knowing that an unvaccinated, unmasked person can spread COVID to others.
His answer was that he would see his role as governor to provide people with the best information and let them make their own decisions. Some may have seen that as a lack of leadership.
However, Murphy’s start wasn’t very inspiring either.
It was pointed out that he’s talked for months about a no-holds barred investigation into how the state is handling the pandemic with an emphasis on deaths in nursing and veterans’ homes.
Why isn’t the investigation ongoing? It has been 19 months or so, after all, since the pandemic began.
The governor rather lamely said that a thorough investigation will be done.
As we moved on, both candidates had their moments – good and bad.
Ciattarelli, like Republicans are wont to do, talks about cutting government.
He likes to say that the cost of running the state has soared by about $11 billion during Murphy’s stewardship.
OK, but what do you want to cut, Jack?
Ciattarelli evaded the question, saying only that he’d have that conversation with his aides on day one and that he wants a tax system that’s fair for everyone. Gee, thanks.
Another big point of Ciattarelli’s campaign is a new school funding formula, which Murphy says would essentially redirect funds from inner city, minority towns to the suburbs.
That’s a legitimate point, but Ciattarelli scored when he said – three times, in fact – that Murphy has approved not one charter school. These schools tend to be very popular in urban communities.
Despite the Republican bringing this up repeatedly, the governor didn’t explain himself.
One of Murphy’s best moments was when he was talking about improving state finances and his nearly $7 billion contribution into the state pension system. Sure, this is not sexy stuff, but for years governors from both parties have shortchanged the system.
Since this was the second debate, there was a brief deja vu moment.
Ciattarelli was claiming that the Murphy administration is “anti-cop.”
The governor countered by saying he’s the guy endorsed by two police unions, not Ciattarelli.
If you think the same exchange took place at the first debate two weeks ago, you’re right.
Given the specter of Trump hovering over GOP Nation these days, Ciattarelli was asked if he’d like Trump, a Bedminster resident for part of the year, to campaign for him.
His answer was that he prefers campaigning directly with voters. So that was a “no” without him saying no.
It would have been appropriate at this point to ask Murphy if he wants Joe Biden to campaign for him. But that didn’t happen.
Near the end of the debate, Ciattarelli made one of those pledges that you know is going to be tough, if not impossible, to keep.’
Pointing out that Murphy likes to blame Trump and Chris Christie for any number of things, Ciattarelli boldy promised:
“I will not blame the Murphy administration for anything.”
Wonder what the odds on that one are going to be.