Murphy for Democrats; Ciattarelli for GOP in N.J. races for governor

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New Jersey gubernatorial candidates Phil Murphy (left), Democrat, and Jack Ciattarelli, Republican (right). (JULIO CORTEZ / Associated Press)

New Jersey voters have good choices to make in Tuesday’s primary elections that would move the state in the opposite direction from Gov. Christie’s poor fiscal and environmental stewardship.

Former Wall Street executive Phil Murphy is favored to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary in part because he’s invested $15 million in his candidacy. But that’s not the reason he should win. The former ambassador to Germany is fluent in government policy and has offered creative solutions to the state’s problems. Murphy, 59, of Middletown, understands the need to raise taxes on the wealthy and slash corporate loopholes to collect the revenue needed to heal the nation’s sickest pension fund.

Murphy promises to properly fund public schools and provide more access to health care. He would do a better job getting federal funding for disaster and foreclosure relief, a smart idea considering New Jersey sends much more revenue to Washington than it receives.

Also running in the Democratic primary for governor are Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Sayerville; State Sen. Ray Lesniak, Elizabeth; former firefighter Bill Brennan, Wayne; Tenafly City Councilman Mark Zinna; and Jim Johnson, a Montclair attorney who was a Treasury undersecretary in the Clinton administration.

PHIL MURPHY is the better choice for Democrats. He understands the issues, has a wealth of executive experience, and offers practical solutions to problems that should never have been allowed to fester this long.

In the Republican primary, JACK CIATTARELLI has the experience and attitude to be the state’s next governor. As a certified public accountant, Ciattarelli understands the math behind the state’s biggest problem: its finances. An assemblyman since 2011, the former Somerset County freeholder and Raritan Borough councilman has also learned the nuances of bipartisan compromise.

No governor will realize his or her grand vision without repairing the damage Christie has done to state finances. Ciattarelli, 55, of Hillsborough, is capable of meeting that task. He is open to raising income taxes on the wealthiest New Jerseyans. He wants the state to stop subsidizing school districts like Hoboken that no longer need additional funds and direct that money to school districts that do.

Ciattarelli also says he would take a close look at payment-in-lieu-of-taxes programs that shortchange communities that need additional school revenue. He would also push for school district mergers and more shared-services agreements.

Also running for the Republican nomination is Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, whose candidacy can’t help but be hurt by being linked to Christie, whom she refuses to directly criticize while part of his administration. Republicans deserve credit for putting up a woman of Guadagno’s caliber for the state’s highest office, something Democrats have yet to do.

The other Republican primary candidates for governor are Steven Rogers, a Nutley Township commissioner; Joseph Rullo, an Ocean County businessman, and Hirsch Singh, an aerospace and defense industry executive from Atlantic County.

All seats in the Assembly and Senate are up this year, but no legislative contests in the South Jersey region are expected to be competitive.