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N.J. Gubernatorial Candidates Converge on South Jersey for First Debate

Lining the pathway to the debate were candidates’ supporters, and members of the Green Party of New Jersey, the American Federation of Teachers, and the New Jersey chapter of the Bangladeshi American Republican Club of U.S.A.

New Jerseyans got a prime time chance to witness the leading candidates in the race to replace N.J. Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday night. Stockton University’s Campus Center Theatre in Galloway Township provided the backdrop, where four of the Democratic and two of the Republican gubernatorial candidates clashed in the first of two Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) debates.

Before the debate, some of the candidates who did not meet the ELEC eligibility threshold for public financing, had their own “excluded candidates debate” outside the Theatre at 5:30 p.m. This dual party debate included Republicans Steven Rogers and Joseph Rullo, as well as Democrats Bill Brennan and Mark Zinna. That debate was streamed live on the Facebook page of Citizens’ Media TV, which can be seen here.

“Excluded candidates debate” outside the venue, from left to right: Joseph Rullo,(R), Steven Rogers (R), Mark Zinna (D), Bill Brennan (D).

The order of the official primary debates was chosen by coin toss and the Republicans were selected to go first at 6:30 p.m.

Stockton University president Dr. Harvey Kesselman kicked off the evening, and noted that the questions came from Stockton students, faculty and the general public.

With only two qualifying candidates on the primary ballot, the stage gave more room for GOP candidates Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli to attack each other, while elaborating on their positions, getting roughly fourteen topics.

At 8 p.m, the Democratic candidates took the stage: former ambassador to Germany, Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Jim Johnson, under secretary to the treasury in the Clinton administration, and State Senator Ray Lesniak. This debate was less dramatic, as the four fielded under 10 topics which ranged from the environment, education, and the public pension crisis.

Both Guadagno and Murphy went into the evening leading their respective packs with over 20% polling averages.

NJTV studios in Newark will host the other round of the ELEC debates on May 11 for the Democrats and May 18 for the Republicans, both at 8 p.m.

The Stockton University debates were moderated by Sharon E. Schulman, Executive Director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy.

The New Jersey primary is on Tuesday, June 6 and the voter registration deadline for this election is May 16.





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Steve Chernoski

Steve Chernoski is a writer, film director and teacher who lives in Lambertville. Here's his website:

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