Speaking first, Corzine detailed his plans to manage the state better and stand with the business community to "drive economic growth," create jobs, and make New Jersey a tourism destination.
He also talked about taking away the culture of no-bid contracts and pushing for the election of a state controller.
"If we invest and grow, we will be able to prosper. We will have a rising tide that lifts us out of the fiscal problems and challenges we have as a state," Corzine said.
He also promised to manage the state's financial affairs better and look for savings wherever he could in light of the state's financial problems. He also vowed to be a "walk-around manager" in the Statehouse.
"I believe that if you motivate the workers, you will get great productivity," Corzine said. "We have to make it seem that it is a positive and constructive thing to be involved in public service."
Forrester gave a more gloomy assessment of the state's future unless changes are made. At the outset, he cited a current "season of discouragement," referring to corruption scandals and accusations of pay-to-play politics that plagued Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey.
Sounding a constant theme in his speech, Forrester told the crowd that the Democrats had had their chance to change the culture in Trenton and failed.
"We have substituted deal-making in New Jersey for policy making, and it's killing us," he said with a raised voice. "We have evolved into this ad hoc arrangement where favored people, favored contractors, favored political operatives have taken the resources and used them in ways that are unrelated to a sense of policy and purpose."
Forrester said he was tiring of how New Jersey had become the butt of jokes for what he termed the worst reputation for corruption in the nation. He told the group that his plan to reduce property taxes by 30 percent in three years was the best way to keep businesses and residents from fleeing the state.
For Camden, Forrester called for more educational opportunities and help for small businesses. Corzine also cited education and job creation as the key to bolster the impoverished city.
Elizabeth Kerr, a manager of direct sales and retention for AmeriHealth New Jersey, said that she had listened intently to both candidates and that Corzine had not come across as "strong enough to handle the problems of New Jersey."
About Forrester, Kerr said: "I felt that he had a plan. He seemed not to be acquiescent to any situation. Forrester was saying, 'These are what the problems are.' He was giving us a reality. I didn't hear as much political jargon with Forrester."
Celia Moreton, an area director for the National Alliance for Autism Research in Cherry Hill, asked Forrester about which of his policies could help her as a single, working mother and said his answer did not impress her.
"He gave me the typical rhetoric, as far as I'm concerned," she said.
Moreton said that even though both candidates may have good ideas about improving New Jersey, both political parties often fail to deliver the change they promise.
"I believe a little bit of both, because I'm not sure who to believe," she said. "There are definitely changes that need to be made."
Contact staff writer Leonard N. Fleming at 856-779-3223 or email@example.com.