One of the disadvantages of a weekly newspaper that goes to press on a Tuesday evening is that although editorial staff does not know the results of a local or national election, by the time NJJN arrives in their mailboxes, our readers will. Conjecture is out of the question: Just imagine if we made assumptions based on polling data from last year’s presidential election and wrote that Hillary Clinton had been elected as the 45th president of the United States. It would have been our very own “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment.
All this is to say that, at press time, we did not know if Phil Murphy (D) or Kim Guadagno (R) will lead our state for the next four years. Yet this uncertainty does not trouble us.
Last year NJJN broke from its 70-year tradition and endorsed a political candidate, Clinton, writing that the 2016 election was “not just about politics. It’s about character, competence, and compassion. It’s about values that are American, and rooted in the Bible: Seeing all men and women as created in the image of God.” Having had a year to consider this decision, we stand by it.
But as much as some have tried to portray the NJ gubernatorial election as a referendum on the president, Guadagno is not Donald Trump nor does she represent an existential threat to the state nor to the Jewish people in particular. Although the current lieutenant governor under Chris Christie has not been willing to engage with NJJN, we are of the opinion that she has had sufficient experience in government, her policies are sound, and she is qualified to serve as governor.
Murphy, too. The former U.S. ambassador to Germany has given face time to the Jewish community in recent weeks, including at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston and for a voter registration event at the JESPY house in South Orange. Though his decision to have a conversation with local Jews was obviously made for the sake of running a thorough campaign, we appreciate his efforts nonetheless.
Oddly enough, it has been the candidates for lieutenant governor who have found themselves under the Jewish spotlight. Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-Dist. 34) was one of three N.J. lawmakers to vote in 2016 against the bill that banned the state from investing public pension funds in companies that boycott Israel. Although Murphy refused Guadagno’s call to drop Oliver, he acknowledged that, had he been in the Assembly at the time, he would have voted in favor of the legislation.
The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo, is under federal investigation for allegedly discriminating against Valley Chabad in Woodcliff Lake. The Lubavitch organization sued the town government last November for denying it permission to expand its property. According to The Observer, Chabad alleges that Rendo said the organization wanted to turn Woodcliff Lake into a “little Jerusalem.” The Guadagno campaign denies the claim, and it notes that the conflict predates Rendo’s 2013 tenure as mayor.
Though these issues are not irrelevant, they are largely immaterial and mostly political posturing. This year, rather than concerning ourselves with the heated rhetoric, we are confident that whichever candidate takes the helm of the Garden State, he or she will abandon the divisive nature of the campaign and address the issues that matter to the people and the future of our state.