The 2017 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election is set to be held on November 7. Incumbent Republican Governor Chris Christie (who was first elected in 2009 with 49% of the vote and re-elected in 2013 with 60% of the vote) is term-limited and cannot run for a third term. Despite coming into office with an ambitious agenda for political reform, Governor Christie is leaving office with a 15% approval rating and a legacy marked by scandal, continued fiscal decline, and failure to address long-standing structural issues facing the state.
Here is an overview of the candidates and a preliminary prediction of the election results:
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is the Republican candidate for governor, having won the June 7th primary with ~47% of the vote. Guadagno was born in Waterloo, Iowa on April 13, 1959, and earned a Law Degree from American University Washington College of Law in 1983. After graduation, Guadagno took a job as a federal law clerk in New York City and developed a reputation as an effective prosecutor in cases involving political corruption. Prior to serving as Lieutenant Governor, Guadagno was Assistant New Jersey Attorney General from 1999 to 2001 and was elected Monmouth County Sherrif in 2007, serving for two years.
Kim Guadagno has developed several different policy positions that have helped her to stand out as a candidate. Guadagno has pledged to veto any new tax increases and supports placing a cap the school portion of a homeowner’s property tax bill, arguing that such a measure will save a family making New Jersey’s median income of $72,000 an average of $895 annually. Guadagno is opposed to increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, arguing that such a policy will harm the economy of the state. Guadagno supports reform to the New Jersey antiquated school funding formula and expanded school choice. Guadagno is opposed to the current House Republican plan to cut Medicaid and has called on lawmakers to find a “more sustainable way to replace the services to some of the neediest Americans.” Additionally, Guadagno is opposed to marijuana legalization (but backs its decriminalization) and supports bringing public health insurance plans in line with the private sector as a way to reduce state expenses.
Former Ambassador Phil Murphy
Phil Murphy is the Democratic candidate for governor, having won the Democratic primary with 48% of the vote. Murphy was born on August 16, 1957, to a middle-class family in Boston, Massachusetts. Both of his parents were politically active, having campaigned for future President John F. Kennedy in his successful Senate campaigns in 1952 and 1958. Murphy received a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Harvard University in 1979 and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. After graduation, Murphy began a 23-year career at Goldman Sachs and established a reputation as an effective deal-maker. After retiring from Goldman Sachs, Murphy served from 2006 to 2009 as the National Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee and was subsequently appointed Ambassador to Germany by President Barack Obama and served from 2009 to 2013. In 2014, Murphy created New Start New Jersey, a progressive policy think tank. One of the goals of the organization was to help displaced workers back into the workforce and improve the economic climate in New Jersey.
Phil Murphy has proposed an ambitious agenda for moving New Jersey forward. Murphy supports the creation of a statewide investment bank as a way to improve the New Jersey economy. Such a bank would supply loans to both businesses in the state and college students and would have the effect of limiting Wall Street firms from participating in state financial activities. Murphy supports increasing state investment in infrastructure as a way to both attract workers and promote economic advancements. Murphy is also a major proponent of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, mandating earned sick leave, and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credits for New Jersey residents. Murphy has thus far been vague on how to address the state’s troubled pension system but has stated that New Jersey has a need to follow through on its obligations to its workers. Murphy also supports the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and guaranteed paid sick leave for New Jersey workers.
Former Marine and candidate for Bergen County Freeholder in 2015 and 2016 Peter Rohrman is the Libertarian nominee for Governor. Rohrman is the grandson of Italian and German immigrants and grew up in a blue-collar family. After a stint in the Marine Corps, Rohrman earned a degree in Computer Science at Rutgers University and was subsequently employed as an operations director for an Internet service provider.
Peter Rohrman has mostly focused on economic issues during his campaign for Governor. Rohrman supports eliminating the gas tax, sales tax, and state income tax in addition to reducing state spending by as much as 30%. Rohrman favors making the public pensions system voluntary, improving the state’s business climate, and reform to prevailing wage laws. On social issues, Rohrman supports the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, criminal justice reform, and a loosening of firearms regulations in New Jersey.
Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale is the Green Party nominee for governor. Kaper-Dale and his wife Stephanie both graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2001 and soon after became co-pastors at the Reformed Church of Highland Park. Dring his service as a pastor, he and his wife have emerged as progressive voices for social justice and have led efforts to raise awareness regarding issues such as affordable housing and immigration reform, and has worked to end Solitary Confinement and torture in the New Jersey prison system.
Seth Kaper-Dale supports increasing the state income tax rate as a way to reduce income inequality and favors the implementation of a single-payer Medicare-for-All healthcare system. Kaper-Dale also supports the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and increased measures preventing police brutality within minority communities. Kaper-Dale is a major backer of reforming the New Jersey criminal justice system, arguing for a ban on Solitary Confinement, reopening the Office of the Public Advocate, and implementing meaningful re-entry services for inmates.
Overall, the candidates running in the New Jersey gubernatorial election have a variety of different views covering all parts of the political spectrum. Based on current polling, it seems that Phil Murphy will likely win with around 55% of the vote, with 43% going to Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and 2% going to the minor candidates. Even though he is far from a perfect candidate, there are several factors going in Murphy’s favor going into the election. The first is the overall national trend against the Republican Party and President Donald Trump. Currently, President Trump has a 37% approval rating nationally, thus dampening Republican chances in local, state, and national elections (Trump’s low approval rating may even be enough for the Democratic Party to retake both House of Congress, a majority of state governorships, and many state legislatures in the mid-term elections next year). The next factor is the overall economic situation in New Jersey. Even though the unemployment rate in New Jersey is 4.1%, the economic outlook in the state remains bleak and job growth remains stagnant. Because of these factors, it can be argued that Phil Murphy has an edge in the Gubernatorial election barring any drastic improvement of Republican prospects both nationally and statewide.
Here is a list of polling places in New Jersey and information on how to register to vote: