New Jersey gubernatorial candidates, from left, Republican Chris Christie, Independent Chris Daggett and Democrat incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine meet the audience prior to the final debate held at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2009.
From mammograms to tax hikes, the race for governor of New Jersey seems to be getting more and more personal. And the accusation of "character assassination" came early during the second televised debate among the three leading candidates.
"We all know what the Governor's camp has been about since summer... character assassination," said Republican Chris
Christie. This summer, he had a double digit lead in most polls. Now, the latest polls show Corzine pulling into a slight lead, though still within the margin of error.
Christie's size has also become an issue, with one Corzine ad accusing him of "throwing his weight around" in order to avoid a traffic ticket.
"Tonight is a good night to let you in on a little secret," Christie said, "I'm slightly overweight."
But Corzine made no apologies. "I don't care a hoot about Mr. Christie's weight. I do care about what matters for the people of the State of New Jersey," the governor said.
Daggett, the Independent who was endorsed by the Star-Ledger and has been surprising pundits with poll numbers as high as 14 percent, stated simply, "I will not run negative campaigns." But Daggett also has the least money of all three candidates.
Much of the air-wave wars have focused on Christie's plan to make health insurance more affordable to more than a million New Jerseyans who currently do not have it. His web site at one point said he would allow policies to be sold without mandates currently required, such as mammograms.
One Corzine ad says of Christie's plan, "Insurance Companies could drop mammogram coverage." But Christie claimed in the debate that his "proposal is for 1.4 million people who have no insurance," adding, "my proposal would do nothing for those with insurance."
"I stand with women and families in making sure insurance companies provide coverage that makes a difference," said Governor Corzine.
On this issue, Corzine got support from the Independent.
"I have no problem with requiring (mammograms)," said Daggett.
Daggett also took a swipe at Republican Christie's talk about cutting taxes, saying, "I gotta buy you a calculator Mr. Christie, because your numbers don't add up, they never add up, you have no plan at all."
Daggett is pushing an expansion of the sales tax to cover items such as lawyer fees and summer rentals down the Shore.
That brought this response from Christie: "I'd be more than happy to take Mr. Daggett's calculator. I'm gonna get you a dictionary because only you can take a four billion dollar tax increase and call it a tax cut."
But Corzine chimed in, "Let me agree with Mr. Daggett, Chris Christie doesn't seem to get the arithmetic right."
On other issues, both Corzine and Daggett said they would sign a same sex marriage bill if it passes the legislature. Christie said he would not, stating that marriage should be "between one man and one woman."
And on which Supreme Court Justice they most admire, Corzine picked the liberal-leaning Justice Stephen Breyer, while Christie went with conservative New Jersey native Samuel Alito. Daggett said if it were up to him, he would pick a justice with "compassion."
There was one thing they all agreed on. Asked to pick their favorite rocker between New Jerseyans Springsteen and Bon Jovi, all three said "Bruce."