This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

TRENTON, N.J. — Sparks flew in the New Jersey governor’s race Tuesday night when Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy sparred with Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli in their first debate.

Murphy hit Ciattarelli for attending a “Stop the Steal” rally in the build-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Ciattarelli said he did not realize that was what the rally would be about, and went after Murphy for the number of nursing home deaths in the state during the pandemic.

“I would have never forced nursing homes to take in COVID patients from the very beginning,” Ciattarelli told PIX11 on Wednesday. “I would have gotten nursing homes PPE and test kits like we did for hospitals.”

The debate was arguably Ciattarelli’s first opportunity to reach a broader voter base across the Garden State. He was an assemblyman for a number of years.

“If you want lower taxes; if you want a state that can create more jobs; if you want to downsize the cost of our government, elect Jack Ciattarelli,” he said.

However, Murphy aimed to get ahead of the tax argument — always a key issue for New Jersey voters. He promised no new tax hikes, if reelected. 

“What I did say last night is that I hope taxes go down,” Murphy said when asked about the pledge during a COVID briefing on Wednesday. “Not only did I pledge no new taxes, but I want taxes to go [down].”

Murphy also continued to stress COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements as a necessity.

“We have the playbook,” Murphy said. “We know exactly what works. We know vaccinations work. We now know boosters work. We know face masks in school work.”

Ciattarelli opposes mandates, but noted he is vaccinated and encourages others to do so.

A final debate will be held Oct. 12. New Jersey’s general elections will take place Nov. 2.