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Democratic Governor Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciatarelli are set to meet Tuesday in their final debate ahead of the November 2 election.

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Murphy is defending the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak and several policies implemented in his first term as he seeks to become the first Democrat to win re-election in 44 years. Ciattarelli is calling for residents’ tax burdens to be reduced, but is facing headwinds because of Democratic voter registration benefits. Polls show Murphy leading the competition.

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Murphy and the Democrat-led legislature are on the ballot this year. Among the programs they enacted together are higher taxes on the wealthy, recreational marijuana legalization, taxpayer-funded community colleges and increased aid to schools.

if elected, ciatarelli He says he will do away with the state’s complicated school-funding formula to reduce the property tax burden on residents of middle-class families, but did not say how he would do so. He attacked Murphy’s handling of the outbreak, particularly the nearly 8,500 people who died in nursing and veterans’ homes, mostly early in the pandemic. This is about a third of the total death toll.

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Murphy has responded that his administration has issued a rule allowing COVID-19-positive residents to return to homes from hospitals to keep them isolated from other residents. He also pointed out that the facilities were the homes of the residents, and they could not be refused to return.

The first-term governor has sought to link Ciatarelli, an accountant and former assembly member, to former President Donald Trump. Trump lost twice in New Jersey, and his administration met with Democratic gains across the state.

The debate is taking place at Rowan University in Glassborough. It is sponsored by NJ PBS, NJ Spotlight News, Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship, New York Public Radio and Gothamist.

Early in-person voting begins on October 23 and lasts until Halloween.