New Jersey Democratic governor race frontrunner Phil Murphy at a primary election watch party June 6, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (Julio Cortez, Associated Press)

As New Jersey elects a new governor, what do candidates say about recreational legalization?

Frontrunner Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has said, "We'll legalize marijuana"

New Jersey voters on Tuesday will pick a successor to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Chris Christie in a gubernatorial race featuring Democrat Phil Murphy, Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and five third-party and independent candidates.

Christie has been adamantly against the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey, and as chairman of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

Four of the candidates to replace Christie have made a statement on legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana in the state.

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Obama administration ambassador to Germany, has led Guadagno in polls and fundraising. Murphy has called for new tax revenue of $1.3 billion, including higher rates on millionaires and the legalization and taxation of marijuana, to fund public pension and school costs.

Murphy said in an interview with the Associated Press, “We’ll legalize marijuana. That will take a couple of years for the economic reality to set in. It’s not the reason why we’re doing it but it does have an economic impact.”


Related: N.J. Democrats hope legalizing marijuana will boost state finances


In a debate October 10, Guadagno said the state shouldn’t legalize marijuana just to earn extra revenue.

Carlos Rendo, the Republican mayor of Woodcliff Lake and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s running mate, said in a debate October 16 that Guadagno backs decriminalization so “adolescents” wouldn’t be “locked up” for possession.

Rendo also called the Murphy ticket “the most anti-cop, anti-law enforcement ticket in the history of the state of New Jersey. They prefer to protect the criminal elements.”

They may not get the media and public attention given to the two major-party candidates, but five independent and third-party candidates are holding out hope despite their longshot odds.

Gina Genovese

A former mayor for the Morris County town of Long Hill, Genovese is focusing her campaign on lowering New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes.

Genovese, who is running as an independent under the banner “Reduce Property Taxes,” is the founder of Courage to Connect NJ, a nonprofit that advocates for a more efficiently run government.

Genovese also has called for a voter referendum on legalizing marijuana to generate money that could be used to lower property taxes. She also has recommended changes that could help reduce fiscal concerns related to the state pension plan, including rules that would tie pensions to lifetime salary and require that workers fully retire before pensions are paid.

“We have to do something with pensions, and it won’t be easy, but we need to do it quickly,” she said.

A former pro tennis player, Genovese has owned and operated Gina’s Tennis World in Berkeley Heights for nearly 35 years. Besides serving in Long Hill, she unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat in 2007.

Genovese and her wife were married in October 2013. They have been together for 20 years.

Peter Rohrman

The Libertarian Party candidate is a Marine Corps veteran who says he believes in “maximizing personal freedom.”
Rohrman, of Ramsey, has never held elected office. He unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders in 2015.

Rohrman’s platform includes tax reform, expanding school choice and legalizing marijuana.

He has called for reducing the size of state government and eliminating the state’s gas, sales and income taxes, saying New Jersey’s “out of control” taxes are leaving the state’s middle class struggling to survive. He also wants to end “corporate welfare” and government bailouts.

Rohrman also says New Jersey should be a concealed-carry state and that all nonviolent criminals being held in state prisons should be immediately pardoned.

Rohrman is an operations director for an internet provider and is a single father of two teenage boys.

The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale

Kaper-Dale, co-pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, is seeking the state’s top office because “politics is so much about the first being first, and that needs to change.”

Kaper-Dale believes that by focusing on social justice and helping low-income earners, homeless veterans and other vulnerable residents, society overall can be improved.

“That’s how you transform a society, by nurturing everybody,” he said.

The Green Party nominee also cites his leadership skills, describing himself as a good administrator who builds up those around him, listens to their ideas and “rides their creativity.”

Among his priorities would be addressing health care by developing a cheaper, better system to ensure everyone gets the “excellent care they deserve.” He believes this would also provide savings that could be used to benefit the state in other economic areas, such as funding the state pension plan and reducing property taxes.

Kaper-Dale has never held elected office. He has been involved in high-profile efforts in recent months to assist refugees and people facing deportation, including a group of Christians deported to Indonesia in May.

He is the married father of 3 daughters.

Matthew Riccardi

Running as the Constitution Party’s candidate, Riccardi says he chose to seek the governor’s office to fix the “failed system of corruption” and return power to the people.

Riccardi wants to eliminate the state income tax and has called for the state’s gas tax to be repealed. He also will seek to cut property taxes up to 10 percent.

Riccardi is a school choice proponent who also wants to eliminate the state’s current testing standards. He also plans legislation that would allow gun owners to open carry and conceal carry without needing permits.

He also will seek to make the health care system more competitive and get more doctors to join the network of NJ Family Care, the state’s publicly funded health insurance program. He also wants to reform NJ Family Cares to improve services.

The Neptune resident served in the Marine Corps and is married with three children.

More AP coverage of the New Jersey governor’s race