(CNN) - In their final face-to-face meeting, New Jersey's candidates for governor held nothing back. The nationally known incumbent, Republican Chris Christie, and Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, traded personal and political barbs in a heated exchange three weeks before election day.
The 90-minute debate was interrupted twice by audience members and featured dueling narratives. Christie described himself as a bipartisan governor with overwhelming public support who has brought New Jersey out of the depths of the recession. Buono, on the other hand, pitched herself as a fierce underdog who has fought for the working class all her career.
Christie has an overwhelming majority in the polls. The latest numbers from Quinnipiac University put the Republican governor almost 30% ahead of Buono despite the state's history of leaning blue.
"Governor Christie represents the worst combination of bully and boss-ism," Buono said, speaking again and again about what she called the "Boardwalk Empire of New Jersey bosses and backroom politics" that she charged Christie stood at the center of.
Throughout the night, Christie was quick to fire back.
"You want to start throwing stones tonight, you better get out of your glass house," he said.
Buono didn't hit hard all night, however, knowing how popular the governor is on many issues.
"I think the governor did a great job during Sandy and the aftermath," she said of his leadership during the hurricane last fall. She was quick to add, "I just wish that we could see that governor again."
For his part, Christie, who is widely considered a contender for the 2016 presidential election, tried to combat a perception that he had already checked out of state politics on his national climb. He was asked a handful of times about his political ambition, and his opponent painted some of his policy-making as him appeasing the right wing of the national Republican Party.
Buono accused him of "wilting" to the NRA and New Hampshire Republicans when he vetoed a ban on a powerful model of semi-automatic assault rifle. She argued he was aligning himself with Sarah Palin and Tea Party Republicans by opposing same-sex marriage over a majority of New Jersey voters' support for it. And she tied him to the debt fights in Washington through his campaigning and fundraising for GOP leaders like Sen. Marco Rubio and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Again and again, Christie defended his record.
"I am who I am," he said, and the people of New Jersey "know that when I tell them something, I'm telling them the truth as I see it and that I'm not going to mince words about it. I think that's the way most people in New Jersey are... and they're not going to see anything different from Chris Christie in a second term if I'm lucky enough to have one."
And on the issue of presidential politics, he remained mum.
"I have no idea what the next four years are going to bring me. Absolutely no idea," he said. "And I don’t think that the people of New Jersey out there watching right now expect me to be able to predict what will happen over the next four years."