NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In accordance with state law, both major party candidates for Governor of New Jersey agreed to debate each other twice, a requirement to receive public financing for their campaigns. Another debate was held between their running mates, seeking the office of Lt. Governor.
Held at William Paterson University and Montclair State University last month, the governor debates showcased both candidates trying to simultaneously promote themselves and cut each other down, as they fielded numerous tough questions from journalists and citizens.
The first of the two debates was dominated by incumbent Governor Chris Christie, but Senator Barbara Buono had a much stronger showing in the second debate, catching Christie off guard.
Christie and Buono disagreed on nearly every issue that was brought up by questioners. While Buono vocally supported raising the minimum wage, legalizing same-sex marriage, and decriminializing small amounts of marijuana, Christie said he opposed all three.
In both debates, questions about Governor Christie’s harsh demeanor came up, specifically the language he has used about his political opponents.
When asked about whether or not his fierce rhetoric was counter to his strong stance on anti-bullying, Christie stated, "Not at all, it's quite the opposite in fact. That’s what leadership is about… it’s about telling people the truth as you see it."
The other elephant in the room was Christie's presidential ambitions. If he decides to run for US President in 2016 and wins, he would not be able to complete a second four-year term as Governor.
"I can walk and chew gum at the same time," said Christie, when asked about the possibility that he would run.
While Christie said he was proud of his record of capping property taxes, attracting businesses to New Jersey, and leading the state during Hurricane Sandy, Buono painted a very different picture.
Buono kept hammering Christie on the state's high unemployment and poverty rates, and percieved differences between Christie's social policies like opposing same-sex marraige and the views of New Jersey citizens.