- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Democrats and Republicans will pick their parties’ standard-bearers in races to succeed Gov. Chris Christie and to elect a new Legislature in Tuesday’s primary.

New Jersey and Virginia are holding the country’s only two statewide races this year, the first such contests since President Donald Trump was sworn in.

The Republican president has been a factor in the Democratic primary, where the six candidates have jockeyed to position themselves as the strongest opponent to the new administration. Trump has factored much less so for the two leading Republican candidates, who have barely mentioned the president. But others in the five-person GOP field have embraced Trump.

Christie, a Republican, has also mattered in the race, especially for Republicans who are distancing themselves from the term-limited governor.

Polls in Tuesday’s primary are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

A closer look at the races:

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PROGRESSIVE POLICIES, ANTI-TRUMP TONE

Phil Murphy, a wealthy, retired Goldman Sachs executive and former ambassador to Germany under Barack Obama, is leading the Democratic field : he’s spent about five times as much as his rivals combined, loaning his campaign about $16 million.

Murphy has never held elected office, but has backing from county party leaders and has led in all of the polls of the race.

Democrat Jim Johnson, an attorney and former Clinton administration Treasury official, is a newcomer to New Jersey, like Murphy, and has centered his campaign on ethics reform.

Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak is banking on his nearly four-decade legislative career, including support for gay marriage and environmental causes. Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former New Jersey campaign chairman, is pitching himself as the sole candidate putting forward a single-payer health care plan. Those four candidates all met in two state-sponsored debates. Democratic candidates Bill Brennan and Tenafly council member Mark Zinna are also on the ballot but didn’t meet the requirements for televised debates.

The candidates agree substantively on major issues, including the need to act as a check on Trump’s administration.

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NOT CHRISTIE

Christie’s top deputy Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is leading Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli in polls as both promise to move beyond the two-term governor who has low approval ratings.

Unlike the Democrats who agree on a number of areas, some differences have emerged between them. The lieutenant governor has promised not to raise taxes, while Ciattarelli says he would hike rates on high-income earners while cutting what corporations pay the state to zero over 10 years.

They also face Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers, Joseph “Rudy” Rullo and Hirsh Singh.

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SENATE AND ASSEMBLY

New Jersey’s Democrat-led 80-person Assembly and 40-member Senate are also up for election. Voters in eight Senate and 15 Assembly districts will have competitive primaries. Voters choose one candidate for state Senate and two for Assembly in each district.

None of the party leaders in either chamber is facing a primary challenge, and in some of the contested races the campaigns are among candidates of the party that has traditionally failed to win the general election.

GOP voters in northwest New Jersey’s 24th District face a choice between incumbent Republican Sen. Steven Oroho and William Hayden, of Branchville, whose slogan is “Remember the Gas Tax.” Oroho was a sponsor of legislation that Christie signed into law last year that established a $16 billion transportation trust fund over eight years, cut the sales and estate taxes but also raised the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon.

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Contact Catalini at https://www.twitter.com/mikecatalini

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For more on the New Jersey’s governor’s race, go to https://apnews.com/tag/NewJerseyGovernor’sRace

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