Dates have been finalized for official gubernatorial primary debates. Blink and you’ll miss them, especially on the Democratic side.

Stockton University will host a debate doubleheader on Tuesday, May 9 – one for the qualified Democratic candidates, one for the qualified Republicans. The Democrats will debate again two days later at the NJTV studio in Newark, with the Republicans’ second debate set for Thursday, May 18.

“Yes, it looks to be pretty compressed, but in terms of determining the dates of the debate, the sponsors have to really negotiate that with the various candidates and get the candidates to agree, so they agreed to these dates,” said Election Law Enforcement Commission executive director Jeff Brindle.

Stockton’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy will hold one-hour debates at the university’s Campus Theatre in Galloway at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. They will be broadcast via Facebook Live, then rebroadcast by NJTV.

“They haven’t decided yet which party is going to go first, what the order is going to be,” Brindle said.

NJTV is partnering with NJ Spotlight for its debates, which will each be held at 8 p.m. and also be simulcast live by WNET and C-SPAN. The same outlets will also repeat the debates, potentially along with public radio stations WHYY, WNYC and WBGO.

Not every candidate on the ballot will be in the debates.

To qualify for the debate stage, a candidate had to raise the necessary funds to qualify for public matching funds – this year, $430,000 by an early April deadline – or loan their campaigns enough of their own money to qualify.

Four of the six Democrats qualified: former Treasury Department official Jim Johnson, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, former Ambassador Phil Murphy and Assemblyman John Wisniewski. Two other candidates will not appear: Bill Brennnan and Mark Zinna.

Two of the five Republicans will debate: Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. Three other Republicans didn’t qualify for matching funds: Joseph Rullo, Steve Rogers and Hirsh Singh.

The primary is June 6.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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