TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno were was declared the winners of the Democratic and Republican New Jersey gubernatorial primaries, respectively, late Tuesday.
They will vie in November to replace Gov. Chris Christie, who is term limited and must leave office.
Excited Republicans packed Guadagno’s West Long Branch headquarters as she easily defeated her four GOP opponents to win a place on the November ballot.
“I get to say it for the first time – I am so proud to be our party’s nominee,” Guadagno said.
Guadagno got a boost, of sorts, from her boss Christie. He was out of the state some 500 days campaigning for president and she served acting governor each and every time.
But just as Christie giveth, he can taketh away. His low approval rating and something called “Christie fatigue” will be something to overcome Guadagno, a 58-year-old former Monmouth County sheriff and federal prosecutor – and she is already distancing herself.
In her acceptance speech, Guadagno said she was running for governor based on her own values, record and principles.
“My principles are Main Street principles. I moved them growing up as I moved from town to town and state to state, when my father lost his job and he had to move to another state to get a better job and a better future for his wife and his five children,” she said. “I learned a lot, and I bring those values today.”
Guadagno said as it is, there are too many New Jersey families who likewise cannot afford to stay in the state and have to pack up and leave.
“I understand those values,” she said. “Those are Main Street values.”
Murphy’s $20 million infusion of cash into the campaign helped him crush his five opponents.
Murphy, 59, a multimillionaire former executive at Goldman Sachs, has been pushing a progressive platform – and also an anti-Christie platform.
“Four more years of Christie-style politics won’t change New Jersey’s unfair, unsuccessful, unsustainable course,” he said.
As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, Murphy also presented himself as the alternative to President Donald Trump.
“Four more years of Christie-style politics won’t make New Jersey the state where we draw the line against Donald Trump, but we will,” Murphy said.
The Republicans are comparing Murphy to former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who was also a Goldman Sachs bigwig. Guadagno herself drew that comparison in her speech Tuesday night.
“New Jerseyans have already seen this movie. They elected a governor with Wall Street values once before,” Guadagno said.
But Murphy characterized himself as the agent of change.
“People all across New Jersey are demanding change, and I am here to change things,” he said.
Murphy and Guadagno will face off Nov. 7 in one of only two governor’s races this year, along with Virginia, with Democrats hopeful their promised anti-Trump agenda and voter registration advantage will propel them to victory and jump-start a 2018 congressional comeback.
The election comes as Trump administration developments swamp headlines, spurring Murphy to lash out at the Republican president and wedging Guadagno between an unpopular White House and a governor of whom most voters disapprove.
For eight years, Christie’s larger than life persona and his many controversies — including Bridgegate — have either delighted or infuriated voters.
Now, the question is how he’ll affect the race.
“It’s a very interesting phenomenon to watch yourself be replaced publicly. This is like a six or seven month process where you get to watch yourself being replaced, and that’s a little unusual,” Christie said.
Christie turned introspective after casting his primary ballot in a race where the x-factor for Garden State voters is something called Christie fatigue.
“We feel really good about what we’ve done and how things have happened in the state for the most part,” Christie said.
Although Christie has had his ups and downs with constituents, he is now historically unpopular. Polls said he is the least popular governor in the country — the Bridgegate scandal and his combative personality have taken their toll.
Christie remained neutral during the campaign but said Tuesday that he voted for Guadagno, his top deputy since they were elected in 2009. He has said he would campaign if asked, but it’s unclear whether his assistance would help or hurt, since about three-quarters of voters disapprove of his job performance.
“I’ve worked with her for eight years, and I believe that she’s the best person in the Republican primary to represent the party in the fall and to retain the governorship,” Christie said.
Murphy is a former Obama administration ambassador to Germany. He poured more than $20 million into the contest and won endorsements from the state’s powerful county political machines. That drew harsh attacks from his opponents that he was trying to buy their support, but it gave him the lead position on ballots across the state’s 21 counties Tuesday.
The race to take the New Jersey governor’s office back from a Republican comes as Democrats nationally weigh whether distancing themselves from Wall Street will help them counter Trump and his populist Republican allies.
Murphy withstood attacks from five opponents over his time at Goldman Sachs. They compared him to members of Trump’s administration who also worked there and former Gov. Corzine, as he was another Goldman Sachs alumnus who, like Murphy, donated to local Democratic parties.
Sharyn Kingston, 25, of Freehold, said she was wary of Murphy’s “Goldman Sachs connections” but voted for him because he’s best suited for the job and can win the election.
“I’m not an Occupy Wall Street type, but I am afraid of big money in politics, and he made it look like he was trying to buy the nomination,” the legal secretary said.
John Parilla, 75, an immigration lawyer from Alpine, voted for Guadagno and said he likes the range of experience she brings to the job. He said he doesn’t see her as a Christie clone but does see similarities between Murphy and Corzine.
Guadagno, who was twice elected on the ticket with the term-limited governor, has gone to great lengths to try to highlight their differences.
The GOP ballot included Guadagno, state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerville), Nutley Commissioner of Public Affairs Steven Rogers, businessman Joseph Rullo, and engineer and businessman Hirsh Singh.
On the Democratic ballot were Phil Murphy, state Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), activist and former firefighter Bill Brennan, former prosecutor and U.S. Treasury official Jim Johnson, state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union/Elizabeth), and Tenafly Borough Council President Mark Zinna.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)