Crime and Justice: where the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial candidates stand

By Dr. Connie Hassett-Walker | Published Oct. 21, 2017NJ Seal_Gov. Election

Come Election Day this Nov. 7, New Jersey residents will select the state’s next governor. While crime may not rate high as a specific concern for voters this Election Day (it has declined in recent years), it is worth considering where the two candidates – Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy – stand on crime and justice issues.

Of the two candidates, Guadagno – a former prosecutor, assistant attorney general, and (the first female) sheriff of Monmouth County – has the stronger crime and justice background. She is currently Governor Christie’s Lieutenant Governor. Murphy has a business background, and has worked at the investment bank Goldman Sachs. His website touts his work with charities, including those that support crime victims (e.g., domestic violence).

Here’s a synopsis of where each candidate stands on the big issues:


Murphy: Murphy states his desire to tackle “structural racism in our criminal justice system.” And according to his website, has “brokered the first meeting between the head of the state PBA and the state chapter of the NAACP.”

(The NAACP’s vision is “to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.”) Murphy supports having police wear body cameras so as to “promote transparency and accountability”. The National Troopers Coalition –representing the National Association of Police Organizations, the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, and the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, among others – has endorsed Murphy for governor, according to Insider NJ .

Guadagno: According to an April 29, 2016 story published in the Daily Record, Guadagno stated at a Community Policing Seminar at the College of Saint Elizabeth that, “It’s not just black lives matter, not just police lives matter. All lives matter.”

Gun Violence and Gun Control

In the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, Nev. on Oct 1, the issue of how to prevent future tragedies of this nature has taken center stage in national news.

Guadagno: The Lieutenant Governor would not change any of New Jersey’s existing gun laws or propose new laws, should she be elected governor, as reported by Politico. Guadagno has observed (correctly) that the state already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Instead, she would work to improve background checks for mental illness of prospective gun buyers, and make penalties harsher for law violations.

Murphy: On his website, Murphy states his intention to sign gun control legislation vetoed by Governor Christie; require attendance at a gun safety course for anyone purchasing a firearm; and place an additional tax on gun sales.

Deporting Illegal Immigrants

The issue of protecting vs. deporting undocumented people living in the U.S. was thrust into center stage when President Trump announced last month his intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which began in 2012 under President Obama. Of specific concern should DACA end is the fate of Dreamers, young people who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, and who have lived most of their lives in the U.S.

Murphy: Murphy supports the Dreamers remaining in the state, and notes that he will oppose efforts by state and local police to help with deportation of any Dreamers. Murphy also pledges to provide statewide ID and drivers licenses to undocumented residents, as well as financial aid for Dreamers.

Guadagno: Kim Guadagno opposes municipalities designating themselves as sanctuary cities for immigrants, calling this a “political stunt, ” according to Christian Estevez on on March 23. And a 2017 USANEWS piece stated that when Guadagno was sheriff in Monmouth County, she arranged for a federal partnership that permitted local authorities to begin deportation proceedings against individuals believed to be in the country illegally, who had committed felonies.

Marijuana Legalization

Many states allow the use of medical marijuana (e.g., for cancer patients, to lessen the negative side effects of treatment), and some states, such as Alaska, Colorado, Oregon have passed laws allowing the cultivation, sale, purchase and use of recreational marijuana. New Jersey may be next, depending on who becomes governor.

Guadagno: It’s been reported that Guadagno opposes legalization of recreational marijuana use, noting that it would put the state at odds with federal policy. Other times, however, Guadagno has stated that while she opposes legalization, she would favor making access to medical marijuana easier for sick individuals. Elsewhere, she has commented that she favors decriminalizing possession of small quantities of marijuana so that drug offenders could avoid jail.

Murphy: Murphy supports legalizing recreational marijuana in order to free up police resources so that law enforcement can focus on more serious crime, according to his website.. He has also commented on the potential revenue to the state through taxing legal marijuana.

Opioid Addiction

Both candidates offer various steps to tackle the state’s opioid problem, including diverting addicts away from jail and prison (Guadagno), and making the drug Narcan more available statewide (Murphy). Narcan counteracts the effects of opioids, and police in some municipalities carry it to administer to drug addicts that overdose.

Dr. Connie Hassett-Walker is an Associate Professor in Kean’s Criminal Justice department. She blogs about crime & justice and social issues at Follow her at

Comments - review our comment policy