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Murphy, Guadagno facing off in NJ campaign’s first debate

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NEWARK, N.J. — The two top party candidates to succeed Republican Gov. Chris Christie are facing off in the first debate of the campaign on Tuesday.

Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are set to take the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Tuesday.

The 7 p.m. debate will be broadcast on ABC stations in New York and Philadelphia.

Murphy, a former Obama administration ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, holds a lead in public polls and has more cash than his opponent.

Guadagno served as Christie’s top deputy since they were elected in 2009.

The debate comes as the candidates have continued to fly under the radar among voters, with nearly three-fifths of voters having no opinion of the candidates, according to a recent Monmouth University poll. The survey talked to 800 voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Murphy has focused his campaign on “rebuilding the innovation economy,” which he says he can achieve by focusing on attracting tech and other businesses to the state. He’s promised to fully fund the state’s public pension and the 2008 School Funding Reform Act formula, but hasn’t identified all of the sources of funding required to pay for it.

Guadagno has concentrated on property taxes, the highest in the nation. Her plan calls for capping them at 5 percent of income for the school portion of levies. But her plan has a cap of $3,000 in credits and she says it won’t help every New Jersey family.

Election Day is Nov. 7.

Christie cannot seek a third term because of term limits.

Five third-party and independent candidates are on the ballot, but didn’t reach the $430,000 fundraising threshold to participate.

Murphy and Guadagno will square off again on Oct. 18 in the second and final debate.

Their picks for lieutenant governor will debate on Monday.