N.J. gubernatorial candidates meet for first debate

Two candidates, both seated at table, with microphone; Guadagno in blue suit (left) Murphy in black (right)

Republican Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno (left) and Democrat Phil Murphy (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A month before the election, the major party candidates in New Jersey’s race for governor will hold their first debate Tuesday night at the Performing Arts Center in Newark.

They’ll meet again next week in Wayne.

Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley said he’s not expecting the debates to attract enough voter interest to influence the outcome of the election.

“I don’t think the debates have any kind of generalized effect. It may be a little chatter for a few days afterward,” he said. “Unless somebody gets up there and shows themselves to be blatantly incompetent, it has very little effect.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Though he doesn’t expect a large number of voters will tune into the debate set for 7 p.m., Seton Hall political science professor Matthew Hale said it could make a difference.

“The power of debates is not necessary the number of people that watch them. It’s the number of people that talk about them the next day,” he said. “If something dramatic happens, if there’s a big zinger, a fantastic point, or a big fall down, that’s what’s going to get talked about around the water cooler the next day at work. And that’s really where it could have an effect.”

Meanwhile, Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray believes it’s unlikely the debate will erase Democrat Phil Murphy’s 14-point lead over Republican Kim Guadagno by election day on Nov. 7.

“Very few voters are really undecided at this point who are actually going to show,” Murray said. “In our last poll, about 9 percent of likely voters were undecided. That’s not going to be enough for Guadagno to make up the gap.”

On Tuesday night, October 10, at 7 p.m., WHYY-FM will air the first debate between Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy in the New Jersey governor’s race, live from Newark, in a collaboration with WHYY, WBGO-Newark, NJ Spotlight, WABC-TV, WPVI-TV, and others.

The hour-long debate is a chance for Garden State voters to hear directly from the two major party candidates hoping to succeed Governor Chris Christie.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal