Primary Preview: New Jersey and Virginia Gubernatorial Elections

By- Danny Restivo (Posted 6/2/17)

New Jersey- June 6th, 2017

On June 6, New Jersey Democrats and Republicans will cast a vote for their respective party’s gubernatorial nominee in the 2017 election. In May, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Democrat Phil Murphy, former ambassador to Germany, and Republican Kim Guadagno, lieutenant governor, as clear favorites to succeed Chris Christie. While Guadagno and Murphy have taken the lead, 57 percent of Garden State voters remain undecided, according to Quinnipiac. A Stockton University survey released on May 25 showed 34 percent of Democratic voters remain undecided, while 31 percent of Republican voters had not supported a candidate. Here are the top candidates seeking their party’s nomination.

Democrats

philip_d-_murphy Phil Murphy is the former ambassador to Germany under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013. Prior to his ambassadorship, the Boston-born and Harvard-educated Murphy worked at Goldman Sachs and headed the Frankfurt office from 1993 to 1997. In 2014 he served as a principal of Murphy Endeavors, a business management consulting company located in Red Bank. Meanwhile, he started his own progressive nonprofit advocacy group. Murphy has $15 million of his own funds to help fuel statewide campaign efforts, tripling his competitor’s. His progressive campaign message includes the establishment of a public bank of New Jersey to help spur investment in small business and infrastructure. As the favorite to win the party nominee, Murphy has 21 county endorsements, near unanimous support from Unions, and a campaign staff that includes a number of high level political operatives. According to Quinnipiac, Murphy has drawn 26 percent of Democratic voters, while Stockton has placed his total at 34 percent.

Jim Johnson- Although he’s polled at 7 percent, according to Quinnipiac (10 percent jimjohnsonaccording to Stockton), Johnson may serve as the biggest threat to Murphy’s candidacy. He’s centered his campaign rhetoric on ethics reform, while promoting himself as an outsider in New Jersey’s political system. Johnson served as a Treasury Department Official in Bill Clinton’s Presidential administration, before practicing corporate law in New York City. During that time, he also served as Chairman of the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University, where he worked on Civil Rights, law enforcement and gun control issues. Johnson has pledged to maintain benefits and pension plans for government employees and retirees. Additionally, he’s also pushing a $15 minimum wage hike (Murphy has also signaled support for a $15 minimum wage), while vowing to reduce residential property taxes and increasing affordable housing. Johnson also advocates free community college tuition for students who come from families with incomes under $90,000. Under Johnson, tuition assistance grants for college would expand.

John Wisniewski As a 19-year assemblyman from Middlesex County, and Chairman of wisniewskithe Bernie Sanders Campaign in New Jersey, Wisniewski is the most progressive candidate in the 2017 Democratic primary. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton won New Jersey Democrats by a 2-to-1 ratio.  Like Sanders, he’s advocated for tuition free college, as well as a single-payer healthcare system. Wisniewski was also a driving force behind the investigation of the Bridgegate Scandal. As the Chair of the Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee since 2002, Wisniewski has championed funding for a number of statewide transportation projects, sponsored legislation for minimum wage increases, property tax relief and helped to pass the Garden State Manufacturing Act. According to Quinnipiac, Wisniewski has received 5 percent support among Democratic supporters.

raymond_j-_lesniakRaymond Lesniak- . Senator Lesniak is one of the longest-serving politicians in New Jersey history with 39 years of experience. Lesniak has been a fierce advocate of progressive causes like the abolition of the death penalty, animal rights, marriage equality, environmental initiatives and the expansion of drug treatment centers. His path to the Governor’s seat remains the most difficult with small funding and a miniscule staff. Moreover, his announcement to run came after he said he wasn’t running.  The Elizabeth native currently has 4 percent support among Democrats, according to Quinnipiac.

Republicans

Kim Guadagno- Governor Chris Christie’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno remains 2016_lg_officialthe favorite to win the Republican nomination with 23 percent of Republican support, while Stockton’s survey places her party support at 34 percent. However, with support for Governor Chris Christie at an all-time low, Guadagno has made attempts to distance herself from the current Governor. She rejected his support for Trump, and said she’d reverse Christie’s decision to take New Jersey out of a regional compact to combat air pollution. When Governor Christie signed a legislation increasing the gas tax, she opposed the move. In a debate with her opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, she received repeated criticism for working with Christie. Guadagno has pledged to audit the state government in attempt to eliminate waste while addressing property taxes. She’s also stated plans to increase funding for transportation projects as well as repairs for the State House. Guadagno has a significant level of State level executive experience which her competitors lack. While Christie stumped for himself and Donald Trump on the campaign, Guadagno served as the state’s active Governor for more than 500 days. New Jersey law stipulates that anytime the governor is out of state, the Lieutenant will serve as the acting executive.

Jack Ciattarelli— The six-year assemblyman represents residents in Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Mercer counties. Additionally, Ciattarelli owns and operates Galen Publishing, a medical publishing company. Like Guadagno, Ciattarelli aims to ciattarelli2jpg-2a48ab720635c81ecorrect the price of property taxes in New Jersey, but unlike Guadagno, he wants to alter the way public schools are funded. Ciattarelli has long-chided Christie and continues to tie Guadagno to her old boss. He’s received seven county line endorsements, but his support remains in rural areas with a comparatively small number of registered Republicans. To defeat Guadagno, Ciattarelli will have to chip in to her support base, which consists of a number of Christie supporters.

Virginia- June 13th, 2017

Along with New Jersey, residents of the Old Dominion will cast their vote for a new Governor in November 2017. Five candidates—two Democrats and three Republicans—are vying for their respective party’s nomination on June 13. Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor, will square off with former congressman Tom Perriello for the Democratic nomination. According to a recent Washington Post-Schar School Poll, 40 percent of Democrats support Perriello while 38 percent support Northam. The two-point difference is well within the poll’s 10-point margin of error. On the Republican side, former National GOP Chair Ed Gillespie has clear path to the nomination with double digit leads over his opponents, State Senator Frank Wagner and Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. However, even if Gillespie clinches the nomination, his path to the Governor’s seat remains challenging. According to the Washington Post-Schar School Poll, Gillespie significantly trails both Perriello and Northam in a head to head match (Tom Perriello by 50 percent to 37 percent, and Ralph Northam by 49 percent to 38 percent). Trump’s low approval rating may give the Democratic nominee a boost, but the new Governor will most likely inherit and state legislature dominated by the GOP. In any event, Virginia remains a state with strong bi-partisan streak when it comes to the state’s top executive.

Democratic Primary

xirzugki_400x400Ralph Northam- As Lieutenant Governor to Governor Terry McAuliffe, Northam usurped the role of heir apparent until Perriello announced his candidacy in January. Many of dubbed the race as an extension of the Clinton-Sanders fight in Virginian. Northam has received endorsements from state party leaders like McAuliffe, and Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.  Additionally, every Democrat in the state legislature has backed Northam and every Democratic congressman except one has supported him. While his opponent rides a wave of anti-Trump sentiment, Northam remains a centrist Democrat who admitted supporting George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. However, the former U.S. Army doctor has shuffled further to the left since becoming state senator in a rural district in 2007. As a Virginia legislator and a lieutenant governor, he helped ban smoking in restaurants, worked with victim’s families of the Virginia Tech shooting to curb gun control and helped legalize cannabis oils. As Governor, Northam said he wants to offer tax credits to businesses with paid family leave. He also wants to revise the state’s grocery tax, which he says would cost $67 million. He’s also suggested decriminalizing possession of marijuana. During a debate with Perriello, Northam touted his relationship with Republican legislator saying “I look forward to the relationships I already have in Richmond and continuing that process in the upcoming four years.” As of March 31, Northam had $3.3 million in campaign funds.

Tom Perriello- The former congressman was elected to represent Virginia’s fifth 220px-perriello_official_portrait_28cropped29congressional district in 2008. However, his support for the Affordable Care Act cost him his seat two years later. Following his term, he worked for a progressive nonprofit before heading to the State Department in 2014. After announcing his candidacy in January, he quickly aligned himself with the party’s liberal messaging. Perriello has positioned himself as a policy-oriented progressive who supports free community college, paid family leave and universal pre-kindergarten. He’s also railed against a gas pipeline through Virginia. Meanwhile, Perriello has received outside support from Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass-D), Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt-I) and several Obama aides. Their support comes in a state where Hillary Clinton won nearly two-thirds of the Democratic electorate against Sanders in 2016. Furthermore, more than half of Perriello’s $2.2 million in campaign funding has come from massive donors outside the state, including contributions from George Soros. While Perriello has championed progressive causes, his voting record on abortion issues and gun rights while in congress has come under fire.

Northam has outspent Perriello on television advertisements in Northern Virginia by $720,000 to $410,000. While 40 percent of the electorate lives in this area, support is split with 36 percent undecided. While Perriello leads Northam among Democratic voters ages 18 to 39 by 20 percent, the Lieutenant Governor leads by 16 points among those ages 65 and older. They run evenly among voters in between, but the older crowd fits the profile of likely voters, giving Northam a qualitative advantage on primary day.

Republican Primary

Ed GillespieEd Gillespie- The former counselor to George W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee ran against Senator Mark Warner in 2014. Gillespie’s performance surprised many (he lost by less than one percentage point). Prior to his run, he was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and provide government affairs service for Tyson Foods. His critics from the right have said he helped push legislation friendly to illegal immigrants. As part of his platform, Gillespie aims to cut income taxes by 10 percent over three years, improve government efficiency and ethics oversight, ban personal use of campaign funds, while strengthening second amendment rights and abortion restrictions. According to a May poll by Washington Post-Schar School, Gillespie has strong support among all registered Republicans. With $3.3 million in campaign funding, the former RNC chair has 38 percent support while a quarter remain undecided.

2012 Official Portrait Chairman StewartCorey Stewart- Known more for his pro-Confederate antics rather than his policy chops, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors promises to crack down on illegal immigration while protecting Virginia’s Confederate symbols. As Chair of President Trump’s Campaign in Virginia, Stewart was fired for staging a protest at the State’s GOP headquarters. The anti-establishment Stewart wants to phase out the income tax, outlaw abortion without exception and slash state spending. The firebrand Stewart has attacked Gillespie repeatedly for receiving more than $1 million to lobby for Tyson Foods when allegations of smuggling illegal immigrants to arose. With slightly more than $400,000 in campaign funding, Stewart has 18 percent support among Virginia Republicans.

Jack Wagner – Originally elected to the Virginia House in 1992, then to the State Senate in 2000, Wagner has a significant level of experience in Virginia politics. As a Virginia Beach resident representing the 7th district, he sits on the Commerce and Labor, General Laws and Technology, Rehabilitation and Social Services, and Transportation committees. While Stewart and Gillespie want to cut state spending, Wagner maintains the budget is lean enough—citing a $1.2 billion shortfall in 2016. Wagner wants to increase the gasoline tax to subsidize infrastructure projects. He also wants to create accredited vocational programs in high schools that will support technical training for new jobs. Similar to his opponents, he opposes abortion in all instances except in the case of rape or if the mother’s life is endangered. With $178,000 in campaign funds, Wagner has 15 percent support among registered Republican voters.

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