New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli hit Democrat incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy on high taxes, massive spending, and the Garden State's COVID-19 response in the state's final debate before the Nov. 2 election.
"New Jersey the state we love is broken," Ciattarelli said Tuesday night at Rowan University in Glassboro, which aired live on Newsmax. "You know it and I know it. It needs to be fixed, and that's what my candidacy is really all about.
"If you like paying the highest property taxes in the nation, if you like having the worst business climate in the nation, waiting five hours online at motor vehicles, waiting month after painful month for your unemployment benefits, or not being able to get anybody on the phone in the State Department or within our state government, vote for Phil Murphy."
High taxes and massive spending under Murphy are making New Jersey into the East Coast version of California, Ciattarelli said in a closing argument during this second and final matchup between the two men.
"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 the governor who says he wants to make New Jersey the California of the East Coast, vote for Phil Murphy," he said.
"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. I want to downsize, modernized, streamline our state government. I want to support the men and women in blue, the people that work at every level police to try to protect us every day.
"And I want to get back to basics and teaching critical life skills in our schools. With regard to our state of affairs. I firmly believe that we can do better – and when I'm governor, we will."
The debate was raucous at times, with Gov. Murphy making the joke "a debate has broken out at a hockey game."
Ciattarelli, who is against mandating masks and COVID-19 vaccinates in schools, called out Murphy for imposing mandates on the people of New Jersey when the governor does not follow his own mandates on indoor large gatherings.
"I do think our leadership needs to be consistent in times such as these," Ciattarelli said.
After Murphy suggested not complying with mandates "puts people's lives at risk," Ciattarelli shot back. "In all fairness, what am I missing here?" he asked. "The CDC recommends that masks be worn for large indoor gatherings. He was at a large indoor gathering in the last three to four days, it was reported ... today, and nobody had masks on."
Ciattarelli also excoriated Murphy on abortion in New Jersey, saying the incumbent governor is more supportive of late-term abortions than the voters of the state are.
"No one supports abortion in months, seven, eight and nine, let alone having one to be performed by somebody other than MD [medical doctor]," Ciattarelli said. "No one supports their daughter seeking an abortion and the parents not knowing, if that daughter's under age.
"That's extremism. That's not New Jersey. That's Phil Murphy."
Ciattarelli vowed not to adopt a Murphy tactic of blaming past administrations or former President Donald Trump for the ongoing problems in the state.
"We hear repeatedly from you; It's always the previous administration's fault or Donald Trump's fault," he said. "Let me do something I rarely do, make a promise. I promise you this: When I take office in January, I will not blame the Murphy administration for anything [and] will get the job done."
Early in-person voting starts Oct. 23 and runs through Halloween before Election Day. New Jersey is the 11th-largest state in the U.S. and Murphy claimed the governor's mansion from former Republican Gov. Chris Christie in January 2018.
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