Although only the major party contenders were allowed to participate in the televised debates, the Republican and Democratic hopefuls are joined by a scattered group of independents and third party activists, individuals who may have great ideas and substantive platforms, yet lack the funding and media exposure that grant credibility at the polls.
At the front of the pack is obviously Christie, the predicted winner, who has spent the last 4 years implementing a series of reforms throughout the Garden State, including an overhaul to the public worker’s pension system, the highest education spending in the state’s history, and a two-percent property tax cap.
His handling of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Jersey Shore and several other low-lying regions of the state, earned him the respect and praise of a diverse cross-section of the public. He has been endorsed by several Democratic politicians, the state’s largest newspaper, and currently leads in the polls.
Progressive Democrat Barbara Buono, a state senator and daughter of Italian immigrants, has spent the last several months drumming up support for her own underdog candidacy. She supports a variety of liberal causes, including an increase in the minimum wage, same-sex marriage, and greater focus on public schools. An advocate of stricter gun control laws and a harsh critic of Governor Christie’s reforms, several prominent Democrats, including congressmen Frank Pallone and newly elected Senator Cory Booker, have endorsed her.
Libertarian Kenneth Kaplan, who strives to bring greater individual liberty to the Garden State, is an advocate of marijuana legalization and vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, both of which are common views in the liberty movement. He supports the right of people to determine the course of their own lives without government interference, and to that end, opposes the NSA surveillance program.
“Libertarians really value their right to privacy,” he said. “We are not against surveillance when there is probable cause and enough evidence to get a warrant to do it legally…we are against the blanket surveillance of all Americans. A lot of people made comments immediately after 9-11 that if we change our lifestyle, the terrorists have won.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is independent William Araujo, who was originally a contender for the Democratic nomination, albeit he was among several candidates purged from the primaries by the State Committee. Now an independent, he appears on the ballot with the slogan, Peace & Freedom Party, and has attacked Governor Christie and Senator Buono alike, appealing to working class voters and Latinos as a supporter of the “New Deal.”
Araujo has promised not to raise taxes on the people of New Jersey, instead favoring a tax on big corporations. His running mate, lieutenant gubernatorial hopeful Maria Salamanca, is one of two Hispanic women seeking the office (Barbara Buono is joined on her ticket by Milly Silva).
Because the office of the lieutenant governor has only existed for 4 years, this represents a first in New Jersey history. Araujo is not alone of the “Left,” however, as Steve Welzer, the first Green Party candidate to run for Governor of New Jersey since 2005, boasts an environmentalist platform, is supportive of single-payer health care, and opposes GMOs.
The third party candidates are joined on the ballot by three independents: Diane Sare, a supporter of Lyndon LaRouche and tea party favorite, conspiracy theorist Jeff Boss, and Hank Schroeder, whose ballot slogan is “economic growth.”
Though these 8 gubernatorial aspirants have received a varying degree of media attention, voters will be asked to select from among them to determine who the next governor of New Jersey will be.