WAYNE — Both candidates came out swinging last night in a contentious debate for the position of New Jersey’s governor at William Paterson University. Buono fought hard but Christie came out on top.
Jokes and jabs flew back and forth as both candidates tried to squeeze answers into the 60 second time limits. While they maintained an entertaining atmosphere in the crowd, some voters still walked away bewildered.
“I feel like the candidates talked about issues but didn’t really say what they were going to do,” said Brooke Schuldt, a William Paterson student. “I think if I had to go to the polls right now, I really couldn’t make a decision.”
The candidates were questioned on everything from property taxes and gay marriage, to Governor Christie’s possible bid for the White House in 2016. He once again deferred that question saying life was too long to make that decision right now. Buono then rebutted that the issue needs to be addressed because the voters need to know that the governor they elect will be committed to them for the long haul.
“I am what I am, and that’s blunt.”
Christie appealed to the voters’ realistic sides, defending himself when asked about being a bully. “I am who I am and I’m not going to change that,” said Christie. He said he thinks that a real down-to-earth person is what New Jersey needs, stating, “I will look them in the eye and tell them the truth whether they wanna hear it or not.” The audience seemed to agree with some scattered applause after the statement.
The candidates seemed to pawn off the issue of taxes on one another, accusing the other of being inactive on rising property taxes. Both agreed that New Jersey is in last when it comes to taxes and being a business-friendly environment. Buono reiterated multiple times that she would not balance her budget on the backs of the middle and working classes. Christie quickly rebutted, “I know you won’t balance your budget because I had to do it for you when I took office.”
New Jersey is ranked last in property taxes and one of the last states to reach Tax Freedom Day, a day when Americans have made enough money for the year to be tax-free, according to the Tax Foundation.
Dissatisfaction with education
Both Christie and Buono failed to answer the question that students were dying to know; what is the government going to do about higher education? Buono answered first, saying that she understands that the costs are expensive and that Christie had cut funding to educational institutes.
“I know what it’s like to rely on public institutions. I went to Montclair, and went to grad school at Rutgers,” said Buono. “I don’t think I’d be able to go now with how high the costs are.”
Christie then cited pumping millions in state aid into the public universities for infrastructure projects and labs, claiming that this will want to entice more people to go to school in New Jersey.
Neither one of the candidates set forth a plan to lower the cost of tuition or to help current and former students struggling with student loan debt.
“I think Christie had a harder time answering the question because he’s faced a lot of adversity from educators,” said Phil Gorokhovsky, co-editor-in-chief of the Beacon Newspaper. “I think he is a great public speaker and he has the ability to make the audience feel good and forget about the question.”
A rough finish for Buono
The wrap-up session of the debate encompassed a few fun questions and a chance for the candidates to ask each other a question. After debating for nearly an hour, the audience learned that Christie likes Springsteen and Buono likes Beyonce. Voters also learned that Christie can be the bigger man when given the chance, whether it’s for show or not, after he applauded Buono’s commitment to public service. Meanwhile, she simply remarked on how entertaining he was on late night TV.
Christie wrapped up his argument by reminding the voters that he has been endorsed by 49 Democratic congressmen. Buono closed with a comment on building a strong middle class and an irritated eye roll after being cut off by the applause from Christie’s closing.
“I could’ve heard most of the things they said on Google, they were just repeating facts it seemed like, and not talking about what they would do,” said Gorokhovsky. “I typically lean more to the left, but Christie is a great speaker, and I think that even a good speaker won’t do well against him, and Buono really isn’t even a good speaker.”