New Jersey governor’s race: Phil Murphy holds big lead but Kim Guadagno gaining traction

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ends his troubled tenure facing term limits, his legacy may be to hand his statehouse to a Democrat.

According to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll, only 15 percent of likely voters approve of the job Christie is doing. The frontrunner, Democrat Phil Murphy, has been leading Christie’s lieutenant governor, Republican candidate Kim Guadagno, by double digits in the polls. A Fox News Poll released October 17, 2017 shows Guadagno trailing Murphy by 14 points.

In an interview with Fox News, Guadagno acknowledged the low poll numbers but said her campaign is starting to gain traction.

“We’ve cut his lead in more than half, my internal polls show that we are literally at his heels and I think you’re beginning to feel this momentum in New Jersey,” she said.

Guadagno’s focus is on the perennial state issue of high taxes and she says property taxes are the No. 1 issue that New Jersey voters care about.

The frontrunner, Democrat Phil Murphy, has been leading Christie’s lieutenant governor, Republican candidate Kim Guadagno, by double digits in the polls. A Fox News Poll released October 17, 2017 shows Guadagno trailing Murphy by 14 points.  (AP)

“They are looking at me as the candidate who will lower their property taxes while the other guy has promised to raise taxes,” she said.

Murphy, a multimillionaire former Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, said the choice for New Jersey’s next governor couldn’t be clearer.

“On the one hand more of the same, another Chris Christie four years of failed politics, of failed politics for the middle class that was hollowed out and ravaged, where public education doesn’t get funded, infrastructure is ignored, we become more unfair by the day and we are caught in this awful us vs. them vortex,” he said. “Or we can turn the page and change.”

Murphy brought out the big names to stump for him in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden have all attended campaign events. But one of his proposals has hit a nerve. During a debate between the two candidates, Murphy said: “If need be we’ll be not just a sanctuary city but state.”  

Guadagno seized on that statement, releasing a controversial political ad that said, in part, “Murphy will have the backs of deranged murderers.” 

And the ongoing federal corruption trial of Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez adds another layer of uncertainty.

Guadagno’s focus is on the perennial state issue of high taxes and she says property taxes are the No. 1 issue that New Jersey voters care about.  (AP)

If he is convicted and resigns after the inauguration, the new governor would appoint someone to fill his seat. A Fox News Poll found that a majority of voters think Menendez should resign immediately if he is convicted.

Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, said the trial hasn’t been an issue in this campaign but it could impact the balance of power in the Senate.

“With the Senate so evenly divided, the outcome of the New Jersey gubernatorial election, if Sen. Menendez were to be convicted, could determine the Trump agenda and if it would move forward with greater ease in the Senate,” Harrison said.

Murphy did not respond to repeated interview requests from Fox News.

As Murphy attacks Guadagno as a continuation of Gov. Christie, she like to remind voters that he’s no longer on the ballot.

But Christie’s shadow, observers say, could decide the race. 

Follow Eric Shawn on Twitter: @EricShawnTV

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