NJ governor race: Phil Murphy, Jack Ciattarelli to face off in debate Tuesday night

You can watch the debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday right here on 6abc.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2021
NJ residents discuss important issues ahead of gubernatorial debate
Ahead of Tuesday's gubernatorial debate in New Jersey, residents weighed in on what issues were most important to them.

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey gubernatorial candidates Phil Murphy and Jack Ciattarelli are preparing to face off in a debate on Tuesday night.

As of last week, a Monmouth University poll shows that one in four New Jersey voters are still undecided or leaning towards a candidate.

On Monday, we asked voters what issues are important to them as they decide if Governor Murphy should keep his job.

"I believe he has done an exceptional job as far as the pandemic goes," said Sandy Green of Glassboro.

"The stuff that Murphy said was wrong about, if taxes are your issue then this isn't your state. I really think he buried himself with that," said John Tracy of Williamtown, who plans to vote for Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.

In a Monmouth University poll conducted in August, New Jersey voters were asked what they feel are the most important issues facing New Jersey.

Forty-one percent said the COVID-19 pandemic, 32% said property taxes and 15% said the economy or cost of living.

On those issues, 46% of respondents said they trust incumbent Gov. Murphy with handling the pandemic, while 21% said they trust Ciattarelli more.

But Ciattarelli has a slight edge when it comes to handling taxes, with 30% saying they trust him to handle that issue, versus 29% who said they trust Murphy.

From talking with voters - for better or worse - it's clear the pandemic will play a big role in this race.

"I think he did a good job with COVID. I know a lot of people don't think he did. But he did the right thing with closing some of the businesses. I'm pretty pleased with what he did," said Carlos Berrios of Sea Isle City, who plans to vote for Murphy.

"We have a small farm and last year killed us. Nobody wanted to come out to the farm, nobody wanted to buy anything. Everybody was scared to death," said Jerry Calderwood of Mays Landing, who plans to vote for Ciattarelli.

Political science professor Ben Dworkin from Rowan University says with over a million more registered Democrats in New Jersey, Murphy has a comfortable lead right now.

"As long as he gets everybody that has a 'D' next to their name, he should be OK. For Jack Ciattarelli, the challenge over the next few weeks is to expand. He's got to expand from the Republican base because there aren't enough," said Dworkin, who is the founder of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship.

If you have debate questions for the candidates, 6abc wants to hear what you. You can post your questions on our social media pages. Make sure to use the hashtag: #NJGOVDEBATE.

You can watch the debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday right here on 6abc, 6abc.com, as well as on our family of streaming apps.