The debate between Phil Murphy and Kim Guadagno did not disappoint.  Governor Christie did his best to downplay it basically dismissing the first conversation between the two candidates in front of voters as not worth watching.  For those that ignored the Governor, the debate was not only worth watching but it gave a real insight into the two candidates.

Democratic nominee Phil Murphy got himself into hot water early by refusing to answer a simple question about how he intended to pay for his promise of fully funding education with a budget of $9 Billion.  Instead of answering the question with the answer that he gave during the Democratic primary, that is, raise taxes, he talked in generalities about a plan.  Moderator Jim Gardner did an excellent job of calling him out and reminding the audience that he simply didn't answer.

One of the big moments was when Republican Kim Guadagno stepped up to call Murphy a coward for his handling of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Murphy said that he had never received a contribution from the disgraced Hollywood Mogul.  Although it turns out he was a finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and Weinstein contributed nearly $30,000 on his watch.  Is it possible that Murphy had no knowledge of a donor that big? Not a chance said lawyer and founder of the Save Jersey Blog, Matt Rooney.

Phil Murphy spent the entire night spewing the talking points of left-of-center Democrats.  Planned Parenthood, gun control, and climate change topped the list.  At one point he got very passionate about making NJ a sanctuary state.

This was in response to a question about President Trump and the Congress having a deadline to fix the DACA program.

Kim handled the question quite differently talking about her ability as a former sheriff to protect the people in New Jersey.  She also answered the question from the moderators as to what would happen if DACA expired.  Put simply, Kim would follow the law.

Then there was the moment Kim called him a hypocrite for calling for gun control while former company Goldman Sachs invested heavily in gun makers.  She posed the question wondering just how much money he made personally from those investment decisions.

Phil Murphy is running a campaign that is seemingly looking past this election. Clearly looking to solidify his Leftist bona fides by discussing every problem in NJ in the context of President Trump. He refuses to back down from his tax hike proposal but tried to hide from the words by talking about "his plan." Murphy showed that he was uncomfortable in the debate environment as he seems to over rely on a scripted response. Other than his poor performance, it was the complete and utter lack of substance presented.

New Jersey has big problems to tackle ahead. Property taxes making the state unaffordable to working and middle class families and over-borrowing by state government putting us deeper in debt creating a need for additional revenue to plug holes and service debt are among the top issues. Then add to that the money that has been taken from public worker pension funds jeopardizing the retirement of thousands of hard working government employees.

Simply saying that you're gonna "fully fund education" is a talking point. Having a plan to do it by renegotiating health benefits and eliminating unused sick and vacation days to save billions is a plan.

As long as Phil Murphy continues to make the race about Donald Trump and Chris Christie and Kim continues to stay on the message of affordability, expect a single digit race that will go down to the wire on November 7th.

You can view both candidates' closing statements below.

Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea.

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