They are as different as two political candidates could be.
But after eight years of the Chris Christie administration, New Jersey voters are most likely looking for as much difference as possible from the outgoing administration, reflected in perhaps the lowest popularity poll numbers in recent history.
So on November 7, just days away, Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno will face off after months of campaigning to be the state’s chief executive.
At this writing, Murphy was given a distinct edge among pollsters with Guadagno, the incumbent lieutenant governor, lagging, according to pundits, because of her association with Christie. The governor ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016 and was perhaps harmed irreversibly by the Fort Lee “Bridgegate” controversy.
Murphy comes to the election without any experience holding elected office. He is, however, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, a position in which he served during the Obama administration. Murphy, who lives in Monmouth County with his wife and four children, is a former Goldman Sachs executive.
He is no stranger to Israel, having visited the Jewish state at least on six separate occasions. He has spoken out in recent months against the Mahwah community’s efforts to have its eruv removed, calling it “an overarching perception of anti-Semitism and discrimination.”
The former financier also has promised in his campaign to name a new executive director to the state’s Israel Commission to increase its funding and to promote trade.
Early last year, Murphy paid a visit to The Jewish Link’s Teaneck offices. He told The Jewish Link staffers that he spent roughly one fifth of his time in Germany working on German-Jewish relations. He also said that he wanted to be part of the team that fixed New Jersey’s budgetary and economic issues, which he added were particularly stymieing to the middle class.
The 60-year-old candidate also received a ringing endorsement from Rabbi Steven Burg, a Bergenfield resident and worldwide director of Aish HaTorah, who told The Jewish Link that Murphy is a staunch friend of Israel on whom the New Jersey Jewish community can count.
“With anti-Semitism on the rise across Europe, Ambassador Murphy was a staunch defender of the Jews in Germany. He has spoken out forcefully against those who try to boycott and demonize Israel,” said Burg,
His Achilles heel within the Jewish community could be his running mate, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, who was one of three New Jersey legislators who opposed a bill that bars the state from investing state pension funds in companies that boycott Israel. The bill was signed into law earlier this year by Christie. Murphy said that he would have signed the bill if he was the governor.
Guadagno, 58, could also get strong consideration from Orthodox voters. The former Monmouth County sheriff and assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York and the state of New Jersey is a strong supporter of school choice and vouchers. She is also a supporter of the state’s New Jersey anti-BDS legislation.
Recently she gained the endorsement of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce.
“Over the past eight years, Kim Guadagno has proven to have a solid grasp of the economic issues facing our community. She has taken a personal interest in this topic and has been incredibly hands-on in her efforts to help New Jersey’s economy thrive,” said a statement.
“Additionally, Kim Guadagno shares the values cherished by the Orthodox community. She is a strong supporter of school vouchers and busing for students in religious schools. She is also a supporter of traditional family values and opposes Medicaid funding for abortions.
“In contrast, her opponent, Democrat Phil Murphy and his running mate Sheila Oliver, have a far-left agenda that is contrary to our values, threatens private school funding and makes school choice all but impossible. In fact, Ms. Oliver was among only three legislators in the entire state to vote against New Jersey’s landmark legislation that prevents investment of taxpayer dollars in companies that support the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize and harm Israel.”
Like her opponent, there is an issue with her running mate when it comes to the Jewish vote. In her case, the running mate is Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo, who allegedly remarked that Valley Chabad sought to turn his town into a “little Jerusalem.” Rendo worked to block Chabad’s attempts to build a new shul, according to a lawsuit filed last year. Rendo denied the allegations and Murphy blasted him for refusing to “criticize racist and anti-Semitic speech.”
Murphy made it clear in his meeting with The Jewish Link that he wanted to expand the state’s business and cultural and security ties with Israel.
“The ties between New Jersey and Israel are important not only because of the shared heritage of many of our people, but because of the economics that link our states,” he told The Jewish Link. “As governor, I want to make New Jersey a true world leader in the trade of both goods and ideas. Markets like Israel are an important part of that equation to grow our own economy and create good jobs.”