TRENTON — Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno is defending her campaign commercial critical of Democrat Phil Murphy and his position on illegal immigration.

Her campaign unveiled a 30-second TV spot on Wednesday following their first gubernatorial debate in which Murphy said he would make New Jersey a "sanctuary state" if Congress did not come up with a plan for the state's 22,000 immigrants who are here under the DACA program. His debate comment was met with both loud boos and cheers.

The ad focuses on the case of Jose Carranza, who was convicted in 2007 in the slayings of three college-bound students in Newark. The Peruvian immigrant was in the country illegally.

Guadagno brought the incident up during the debate and said Murphy made the initial "sanctuary state" comment during a Facebook Live event with a Star-Ledger columnist.

"He said he would have their backs. I wonder if he would have the back of the individual who climbed through a second flood widow just two weeks ago in a sanctuary city in New Jersey and raped a six-year-old girl. I will have their back and I will keep them safe," the Republican said.

Trenton, where incident took place in September,  also considers itself a "sanctuary city."

Murphy during the debate called both crimes "heinous" and said the accused should be prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law. Only a fraction of people illegally in the country commit seriously criminal offenses. 

Guadagno told New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea on Friday morning that Murphy called for New Jersey to become a "sanctuary state" during the primaries, but the comment went largely unnoticed.

"What you get from that Facebook Live event is his reaction," Guadagno said. "You know in an unscripted moment what he really thinks. In an unscripted moment he really does believe that he will err on the side of caution and protect those who are in this country illegally who are committing violent crimes."

The ad was heavily criticized by Democrats at all levels including the candidate himself, who called the it "vile." 

The Star-Ledger in an editorial accused Guadagno of splicing the video "in way that is flat-out dishonest, a cheap attempt to whip up the most ugly and unfounded fears of unauthorized immigrants, and to use that fear to slime Murphy, her Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race."

The editorial compared the ad to the commercial run by President H.W. Bush in 1988 against Democratic challenger Mike Dukakis featuring convicted felon Willie Horton.

Former Vice President Joseph Biden during a campaign appearance for Murphy made the same comparison.

Horton, a convicted killer, raped a woman while out of prison on a weekend furlough. The 1988 spot was designed to play on fears that Democrats were supposedly soft on crime, but the ad featuring the black felon was widely condemned as racist. Dukakis, a Democrat, went on to lose.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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