Democratic Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver and Woodcliff Lake’s N.J. Republican mayor, Carlos Rendo, debated on Monday night at Montclair State University to make their case for the lieutenant governor seat.
The candidates largely defended the positions of their running mates, Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno who are vying to replace current New Jersey governor, Chris Christie.
The most heated exchange occurred when NJTV’s moderator Michael Aron brought up Guadagno’s controversial campaign ad about illegal immigration that many have criticized as having racist undertones. Rendo, who is a Cuban immigrant and an immigration attorney, came to the defense of the ad and criticized Murphy’s consideration to make New Jersey a “sanctuary state.”
“The Murphy and Oliver ticket is the most anti-cop, anti-law enforcement ticket in the history of the state of New Jersey,” Rendo said.
Oliver pulled no punches in return, calling Rendo and Guadagno’s campaign a continuation of Chris Christie’s policies, being “purposefully divisive” and accused them for ditching their moderate approach for far right wing talking points as a last ditch effort to make ground before the Nov. 7 election. The most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll finds Murphy ahead of Guadagno by 15 percent.
Oliver, who stayed on message with Murphy’s proposals, presented a progressive message such as returning $9 billion to public education, full legalization of marijuana, expanded universal preschool and free community college, and a promise to be an alternative to Governor Christie. Christie currently holds a historically low 15 percent favorability rating, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
Rendo hammered home Guadagno’s central message of lowering taxes, namely to combat rising property tax rates, as well as repeatedly calling Oliver and Murphy’s proposals lavish spending.
“They have absolutely no plan to bring property tax relief to the residents of the state of New Jersey,” said Rendo as he held up a blank piece of paper to the live audience that was being simultaneously broadcasted by NJTV. Rendo stated that the tax plan presented by Guadagno would save homeowners’ an average of $800, which resonated with the core voter base in attendance.
“Mayor Rendo kind of answered it more where he wanted to lower property taxes to make it more affordable for me to live here,” said Montclair State student James Coffey. Coffey works as an intern for the Guadagno campaign.
Oliver followed by saying Murphy’s current tax plan would raise $1.3 billion for education, pensions and more — including raising taxes on the wealthy, closing corporate loopholes and taxing legalized marijuana. The progressive policies resonated with many students.
“I will probably be voting for Murphy,” said Montclair State student Wyatt Benson, a a television and digital media major who volunteered at the event. “A large portion of their ticket revolves around improving education in the state. So it’s nice to see that higher education is included in that,” Benson said.