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The Race to Replace Christie

Jacob Kornbluh

Who Will Be New Jersey’s Next Governor?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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JEWISH VOTE Orthodox Jews had their ups and downs with Christie. While he won 82% of Lakewood’s vote in his 2013 reelection, he offended Jewish donors in a 2014 speech

C hris Christie, the New Jersey governor who ran for president, dropped out and endorsed Donald Trump, and then watched his popularity plummet, cannot run for reelection due to state term limit laws.

So who will be New Jersey’s next governor? It’s a healthy race, with several Democratic and Republican contenders.

Both parties will hold primaries on June 6 to choose their candidates for the November 7 general election.

For the Republicans, frontrunner Lt.-Gov. Kim Guadagno faces three challengers: State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Nutley township commissioner Steven Rogers, and businessman Joseph Rullo. The Democratic Party contest pits the favorite, Phil Murphy, a former US ambassador to Germany, in a four-man race that includes Jim Johnson, a former US Treasury undersecretary; State Assemblyman John Wisniewski; and State Senator Raymond Lesniak.

Both leading candidates are aggressively courting the Orthodox Jewish community, assuming their votes will matter in what’s shaping up as a tight general election.

Orthodox Jews had their ups and downs with Christie. While he won 82% of Lakewood’s vote in his 2013 reelection, he offended Jewish donors in a 2014 speech, referring to Judea and Samaria as “occupied territories,” a mistake for which he subsequently apologized to Sheldon Adelson, a major GOP donor. Last August Christie mended fences further by signing a law that prohibits the state from investing in pension and annuity funds that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses.

Guadagno has been a strong supporter of school choice and vouchers. She distanced herself from her unpopular boss even before announcing her candidacy, publicly opposing Christie’s controversial bill to raise New Jersey’s gas tax and coming out against Donald Trump.

Avi Schnall: “If someone is able to capture the Jewish vote, it can make a significant difference in the outcome of an election. The numbers speak for themselves”

Aside from his foreign service, Murphy is little known among Orthodox Jewish voters, and his progressive platform will be less attractive to political conservatives. Murphy also came under fire for comparing President Trump to Adolf Hitler after Trump floated the idea of creating a registry for Muslim citizens and immigrants. Although he never mentioned Trump or Hitler by name, Murphy was quoted saying: “I’m a modest student of Germany history. And I know what was being said about somebody else in the 1920s. And you could unfortunately drop in names from today into those observations from the 1920s, and the moves that have been made early on only aid and abet that argument.”

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Murphy leading Guadagno 47% to 25%; however, 70% of voters said they don’t know enough about Murphy to form an opinion of him and 63% said the same about Guadagno.

“On issues that matter to the Jewish community, Guadagno’s record is an open book,” said one New Jersey Orthodox Jewish leader who requested anonymity. “She has invested in meeting the community and caring for their needs, compared to Christie’s lackluster relations and uncooperative conduct on increased security funding for nonpublic schools.”

Avi Schnall, Agudath Israel’s New Jersey director, says that both Guadagno and Murphy understand the importance of the state’s Orthodox Jewish votes. “If someone is able to capture the Jewish vote, it can make a significant difference in the outcome of an election. The numbers speak for themselves,” Schnall said. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 656)

Jacob Kornbluh is the political reporter for Jewish Insider

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