FiOS1 NewsNov 7, 2017, 5:21 pmNov 7, 2017, 7:40 pm

Christie says election is not about him, but voters disagree

Some voters said they were driven by a desire to be done with Christie

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FiOS1's Tom Murphy reports from the Guadagno campaign, while Raven Santana is with Murphy.

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the candidates running to replace him cast their ballots on Tuesday, and he said the election was not about him even though it has focused heavily on his eight years in office.

Voters didn't necessarily agree with him.

As voters chose between Democrat Phil Murphy and Christie's lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, some said they were driven by a desire to be done with Christie, a once-popular moderate whose image was severely damaged after the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal in 2013 and a failed presidential run last year.

John Holpp, 88, of Hamilton, said he voted because he was "hoping to get rid of Christie."

"If I could get rid of (President Donald) Trump I would be even happier," said Holpp, who's unaffiliated. "I've never seen our state so miserable, and I've never seen our country so miserable."

Kim Sica, a Republican from Hamilton who voted for Christie and Guadagno in 2009 and 2013, said she doesn't like what she's seen from the governor in his second term and didn't want to support his "right hand."

"I'm a little nervous with that because I haven't trusted the Democrats in a long time," said Sica, who voted for Trump, the leader of the Republican Party, and proudly calls herself a Trumpster.

Murphy, a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive who served as President Barack Obama's ambassador to Germany, racked up a huge lead in polls. He cast himself as a check on Trump, who lost the state to Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. He also pinned his campaign on Christie's low approval ratings and linked Guadagno to Christie at nearly every opportunity.

Those moves, combined with the nearly 900,000-voter registration advantage Democrats have over Republicans in New Jersey and Murphy's huge cash advantage, had Guadagno running as an underdog despite having helped govern the state as Christie's deputy for the past eight years.

After voting Tuesday, Christie said the race wasn't a referendum on his time in office.

"If Kim wins, it's not an affirmation of my eight years, and if Phil Murphy wins, it's not a rejection of my eight years," Christie said.

Guadagno did whatever she could to create distance from Christie while campaigning, including criticizing his $300 million plan to renovate the statehouse and mocking his use of a state police helicopter.

In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, about half the respondents said Guadagno's service as Christie's top deputy was a negative factor for them. The poll surveyed 1,049 voters and had a margin of error of 4 points.

Guadagno's campaign focused almost entirely on her promise to lower property taxes, but recently she has steered into a discussion on immigration policy , calling for a ban on sanctuary cities.

Butch Zaborniak, 51, an unaffiliated voter from Hamilton, said that was his main reason for voting for Guadagno. He described Christie's eight years in office as "OK."

"I'd have liked to have seen better, but nothing is perfect," he said. "Christie left a bad taste in their mouth. He didn't leave on a high note."

Murphy, after voting in Middletown on Tuesday, said the election was a referendum on the economy, which he described as "not strong."

"It's not fair, it doesn't work for enough people and that's what this is about," he said.

Guadagno, after voting with her family in Monmouth Beach, said she was excited and believed momentum was building.

"We've been on a bus for five days talking to the people of New Jersey, and they say the same thing: They can't afford more taxes, and they can't afford a less safe state," she said, "so we're feeling very excited about today."

Murphy, 60, led Goldman Sachs' operations in Hong Kong and Germany before Obama tapped him to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany in 2009. He loaned his primary campaign $16 million.

Guadagno, 58, has served as the state's first lieutenant governor. She is a former Monmouth County sheriff and has served as a federal prosecutor in New York.

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