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Murphy, Guadagno clash over taxes in final NJ gubernatorial debate

WAYNE, N.J. — New Jersey's property taxes — the country's highest — took center stage in the second and final debate gubernatorial debate on Wednesday night.

Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno clashed in a televised debate at William Paterson University over what polls show is a big issue in the Nov. 7 contest.

Murphy called Guadagno's plan to cap a portion residents' property taxes at 5 percent of income a "gimmick." Guadagno said her plan could save voters an average of $800 annually.

Murphy and Guadagno disagreed on a number of issues in the hour-long debate that aired on CBS stations in New York and Philadelphia, including on an expiring 2 percent cap on what police and fire officials can win in labor arbitration. Guadagno favors renewing it. Murphy said he needs more information before stating a position.

The two candidates met last week in Newark, and their picks for lieutenant governor met on Monday in Montclair.

Murphy, a former Obama administration ambassador to Germany, leads Guadagno in polling and has $5 million to Guadagno's $1 million in reserves.

The debate comes just a day before former President Barack Obama comes to New Jersey to campaign for Murphy. Obama is the latest in a string of high-profile backers, including former vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, who have stumped for the never-elected Murphy.

Handfuls of supporters for each candidate gathered outside the event. Guadagno backers hoisted a sign that said "Murphy's Law Any Tax That Can Be Raised Will Be Raised."

Murphy's backers brought a figure dressed as President Donald Trump wearing the white garb of Ku Klux Klansman.

Analilia Mejia, director of the liberal New Jersey Working Families organization, said the Trump figure has been part of a summer-long protest outside Trump's golf course in Bedminster. She said her group brought the figure to the debate to protest a new ad by Guadagno that says Murphy would support illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes. "We think she's taking a page out of Trump's playbook," Mejia said.

Election Day is Nov. 7.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie cannot seek a third term because of term limits.

Five third-party and independent candidates also are running for governor.