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HomePollsFinal NJ Governor Debate Gets Ugly As Christie And Buono Clash

Final NJ Governor Debate Gets Ugly As Christie And Buono Clash

Gov Chris Christie and Sen Barbara Buono debate at Montclair State University for the second and final time before the gubernatorial election next month. Montclair, NJ 10/15/13 (John Munson/The Star-Ledger)

In the spirited and final NJ governor debate Tuesday night, things got ugly when Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic challenger Barbara Buono took aim at each other on all the issues, including gun control, gay marriage and global warming.

The mood turned especially sour during the debate at Montclair State University when the two clashed over Republican Christie’s many deals with the Democrats.

Christie defended the compromises he made with Democrats after Buono called him the master of backroom deals, which are made with “party bosses.”

Buono referred to Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, a Democrat who endorsed Christie and is accused of misusing campaign funds, but never used his name.

“You’re not interested in cleaning up that boardwalk empire of back room political bosses,” Buono said. In the video below, she says “you can have that endorsement” to Governor Christie, after accusing him of being “the worst kind of bully,” which is the only reason Democrats have endorsed him, according to Buono.

“Well, listen, let’s be real frank about this. Joe DiVincenzo is sitting in the front row and I’m proud to have his endorsement and you wish you did,” Christie said. With Buono trying to interrupt the governor he added, “Secondly, you have a significant amount of nerve.” Again, Buono attempted to cut him off. “You want to start throwing stones tonight you better get out of your glass house,” he closed.

When asked to defend his endorsement of U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, who supports the federal government shutdown, Christie reminded the crowd of the state shutdown of several years ago.

“It very much is reminiscent of what happened in Trenton under Senator Buono and Governor Corzine when they shut down the government because they couldn’t decide how much to raise taxes,” Christie said.

Christie made an effort to clarify his position on the Dream Act, which is a law that would permit students who entered the country illegally to pay in-state tuition rates. The governor had said that he was not opposed to in-state tuition rates for illegal Hispanics in the state, but that the state just couldn’t afford to extend tuition equality to “people who haven’t followed the rules.” Then, a few days ago while speaking to a Hispanic crowd, Christie said it was time to reconsider the measure. “I’ve never been opposed to tuition equality,” Christie said.

Buono has stated that she supports the measure, which has yet to go to a vote in the state legislature. “Be careful, this governor has a history of saying one thing and doing another,” Buono said.

The first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy in just weeks away, and Christie defended his position, which is that “climate change is real and human activity plays a role.” However, Christie wouldn’t say if it was the cause of that particular storm.

Buono, again, came out swinging at Christie for hiring Ash Britt of Florida to remove debris after his political mentor Haley Barbour suggested the company, which was also a client of the former Mississippi governor’s lobbying firm.

Christie stood by his decision to pull New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was intended to control carbon emissions.

“We know the conservative base of the Republican Party doesn’t like cap and trade programs,” Buono said.

“I’m not going to have a fight with every person that Senator Buono wants me to have a fight with,” said Christie in defense of comments made by Christie accusing Obama of being slow with federal assistance.

Christie and Buono also took aim at each other over gay marriage. When asked how he would react if any of his children told him they were gay, an unbelievable but predictable question posed by a moderator to a Republican candidate, Christie held on his opposition to legalizing gay marriage.

“If my children came to me and said they were gay I would grab them and hug them and tell them I love them,” Christie said. “I would also tell them that your dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Buono, whose daughter is gay, said the governor’s position on gay marriage makes him like Sarah Palin and the GOP caucus in Iowa.

On gun control, Christie explained why he vetoed a ban on the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, even though he initially proposed a ban on future purchases. He blamed Democrats for going back on their word during negotiations with him. “If they break a deal with me, then there’s going to be ramifications,” Christie said. “They didn’t keep their word on this.”

Buono, almost childishly, said she thought Christie changed his mind after he received a letter from gun rights advocates in New Hampshire, the site of the nation’s first presidential primary.

Even though Christie maintains a huge fundraising advantage and a lead of up to 33 points the polls.

“I know she is a serious and formidable candidate,” Christie said.

“Well, we agree on something,” Buono said. “That’s great,” adding to a long list of sarcastic comments and rehearsed attack lines, all of which, showed that Buono knows Christie appears to be cruising to reelection, despite his gentlemen-like comment. Buono’s performance underscored how much she and all of the pundits believe that she needed a real Hail Mary.

I don’t see that she succeeded in that task.

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Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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