NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The two top party candidates to succeed Republican Gov. Chris Christie faced off Tuesday evening in the first debate of the gubernatorial campaign.
Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno took the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark at 7 p.m.
The candidates sparred over property taxes in Tuesday’s debate ahead of the Nov. 7 election.
Murphy is a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive and Obama ambassador to Germany. He did not directly answer whether he would support renewing an expiring 2 percent cap on what some police and fire officials can get in labor contract disputes.
Guadagno favors extending the cap. She cites a report released by the Christie administration that said the cap saved taxpayers nearly $3 billion.
The Republican candidate called Murphy a “coward” for failing address the snowballing scandal surrounding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein until after her campaign raised the issue on Tuesday.
Murphy insisted didn’t ask for or get a “dime” from the disgraced Tinseltown big wig.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says Weinstein and his family have given more than $1.4 million in political donations since 1992, nearly all to Democrats.
Murphy also called on Democrats to return any contributions from Weinstein, who’s accused of sexually harassing or assaulting a dozen women.
The current front-runner holds a lead in public polls and has more cash than his opponent.
Guadagno served as Christie’s top deputy since they were elected in 2009.
Christie cannot seek a third term because of term limits.
Five third-party and independent candidates are on the ballot, but didn’t reach the $430,000 fundraising threshold to participate.
The debate comes as the candidates have continued to fly under the radar among voters, with nearly three-fifths of voters having no opinion of the candidates, according to a recent Monmouth University poll. The survey talked to 800 voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Murphy has focused his campaign on “rebuilding the innovation economy,” which he says he can achieve by focusing on attracting tech and other businesses to the state. He’s promised to fully fund the state’s public pension and the 2008 School Funding Reform Act formula, but hasn’t identified all of the sources of funding required to pay for it.
Guadagno has concentrated on property taxes, the highest in the nation. Her plan calls for capping them at 5 percent of income for the school portion of levies. But her plan has a cap of $3,000 in credits and she says it won’t help every New Jersey family.
CBS2, along with The Record and William Paterson University, will host a debate between Guadagno and Murphy on Oct. 18. CBS2’s Kristine Johnson will moderate that debate with a panel also made up of Jessica Dean of CBS station KYW-TV in Philadelphia, Levon Putney of WCBS Newsradio 880 and Alfred Doblin, editorial editor of The Record newspaper. It will broadcast on CBS2 and WCBS 880, and stream to online viewers through the CBSNewYork.com website and Facebook accounts.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)