NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Democratic candidate for New Jersey governor Wednesday said his Republican rival's initially brief response to a lawmaker posing with a Confederate flag was a "failure," while she said her opponent was distracting from his calls for higher taxes.
The dueling campaigns to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Chris Christie ratcheted up pressure on one another as Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno inch closer to the Nov. 7 election.
Murphy held a news conference Wednesday to spotlight what he said amounted to Guadagno's insufficient response to Republican Assemblyman Parker Space's Facebook photo showing him standing by a Confederate flag.
"What we've seen lately over the past couple of weeks in New Jersey from the lieutenant governor and her running mate is a failure to make noise," Murphy said. "The Confederate flag is not just any other symbol. This symbol represents hatred. It represents division."
Guadagno's campaign said that she doesn't stand with the flag and that Murphy was distracting from what his campaign has said is a promise to raise taxes by at least $1.3 billion if he's elected.
"The lieutenant governor has consistently condemned bigotry, hatred and racism in all forms," her campaign said.
The dispute over the flag goes back to an August news conference in which Guadagno was asked about the photo and responded that she had not seen the post and would let Space speak for it.
At the same event, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick denounced the flag and said he doesn't support what it stands for.
Guadagno's brief response compared to Bramnick's led to Murphy seizing on the issue. It comes after President Donald Trump's reaction to the white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally at the University of Virginia resulted in criticism from fellow Republicans, including Christie.
Space and his wife posed in front of the flag at a Hank Williams Jr. concert last month. He defended the Facebook post and said he disagreed with criticism.
The flag featured the singer's face along with the inscription, "If the South would've won, we would've had it made."
Space captioned the photo, "Tailgating waiting for Hank. Hope no one is offended! LOL."