Murphy v. Guadagno: New Brunswick Residents Weigh in on Gubernatorial Debate

Journalism Team: Ken Kurtulik, Kelsi Brown, and Dan Siegel

Team Lead: Kim Predham

New Brunswick students and residents met over dinner at 199 College Avenue on Oct. 18th, eager to watch New Jersey gubernatorial candidates Phil Murphy and Kim Guadagno debate one last time.

Participants watched nervously as the candidates discussed everything from economic policy to immigrant protection and drug reform.

Murphy, a Democrat, was the candidate of choice for everyone in attendance. Nothing in the debate changed anyone’s views, or seemed to give them many satisfying answers.

Rutgers student Aaron Kessler thinks that while Murphy technically won, neither candidate was particularly civil.

“I don’t think either of them really made their points clearly,” Kessler said. “I think they mostly just tried to attack each other.”

When asked if they had appreciated any points made by Guadagno, the Republican candidate, a silence filled the room.

New Brunswick resident and retired medical school faculty member Vincent Rifici said that neither candidate sufficiently addressed the state’s declining credit rating.

“It’s bad enough that it’s the most expensive state to live in,” Rifici said. “To pay more than you have to on what you borrow, I think, is just irresponsible.”

“Property taxes will never go down. I’m not sure how this happened in the United States, but we all want something for nothing. The cost of everything goes up, the cost of borrowing goes up, and we don’t want to pay for it.” ~Vincent Rifici

When asked what issue affects them most as New Brunswick residents, responses were varied.

Susan Painter said transportation is an area that could use improvement.

“The roads here are in horrible shape,” Painter said. “Yet we have to drive down them every day. Newark airport also needs a lot of help, so I just think transportation and infrastructure needs a lot of attention.”

While some of their concerns differed, everyone in the room agreed that education spending is important.

“Just in general, I think it’s been underfunded and needs to be rejuvenated,” said Kessler, a comment that was met with some nods of agreement. “More people would go to college if tuition wasn’t so high.”

Reynalda Cruz, a resident who emigrated to the United States from Mexico 26 years ago, was also worried about the cost of education and how it affects her family.

“I have my daughter here at Rutgers…and maybe next year, my son will be coming here as well,” she said. “I’m not rich, I just need the government to support its students because the cost of education is way too high.”

Germania Hernandez, a Dominican immigrant who has been living and working in New Brunswick since 2003, shared concerns over the cost of education.

“I have a son who is studying at Middlesex and has aspirations to get into Rutgers,” Hernandez said. “He’s putting in a lot of work so that he can have good qualifications. However, sometimes it worries me a lot (his desire to come to Rutgers), because it’s very difficult for me to help him economically.”

“Many of us come here to get ahead in life and to help our families. Really, the politics that are going on right now aren’t just. [Doors are closed] on people who are dreamers, people who are just trying to go forward with their lives- and that’s why they have crossed borders and crossed seas.” ~Germania Hernandez

Cruz and Hernandez were also concerned with immigration reform, and how certain stereotypes of immigrants affect their communities. In light of a recent ad put out by Guadagno’s campaign, which equated Murphy’s support of undocumented immigrants to backing for a convicted killer and criticized his pledge to make New Jersey a “sanctuary state,” their concerns were immense.

“Guadagno doesn’t understand that people are simply coming here to have a better life for them and their kids,” Cruz said. “I only came here to work, I’m not a criminal.”

Hernandez added, “There are millions of people who came here from different countries. Not everyone is a bad person…many of us come here to get ahead in life and to help our families.”