Face off in November

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TRENTON – Republicans have named Jack Ciattarelli, a former member of the Somerset County assembly, as a candidate to face Gov. Phil Murphy in a November election in which Democrats aim to end a string of unfavorable historical electoral trends.

Murphy is seeking to become the first Democrat to be re-elected to New Jersey since Gov. Brendan Byrne in 1977. Since then, two Democrats – Jim Florio and Jon Corzine – have lost their candidacy for a second term, and Jim McGreevey has resigned in mid – path of his third year in office.

Additionally, New Jersey voters have not elected a governor from the same party as the outgoing president since 1985, when Gov. Tom Kean was re-elected a year after President Ronald Reagan did the same.

These are eight consecutive electoral cycles in which the state zigzagged after the nation zigzagged, in off-year races that are sometimes interpreted as a first judgment of the party controlling the White House.

Ciattarelli secured nearly half of the votes on Tuesday in a four-man race that included engineer Hirsh Singh and developer-turned-pastor Philip Rizzo, who competed for the affection of supporters of former President Donald Trump and the former Somerset County Frankish landowner Brian Levine. Singh and Rizzo challenged Ciattarelli from the right, but fought for many of the same voters.

Campaign fundraising race

Campaign fundraising reports and ELEC records show Ciattarelli had nearly $ 7 million in primary race revenue, including nearly $ 2.5 million in contributions and $ 4.5 million in funds the $ 1 for $ 1 match that the state provides to candidates for governor who raise enough money to qualify.

Ciattarelli has received near the maximum of $ 4.6 million in primary matching funds and will likely make it again. None of the other three candidates qualified, although Singh made a personal loan large enough to his campaign to qualify for two debates – then boycotted one, unhappy with the COVID safety rules required by the debate sponsor, NJ PBS.

Rizzo raised $ 624,000. Singh raised $ 586,000, including $ 437,000 in personal loans. Levine raised and spent less than $ 5,800, the minimum required to complete detailed campaign reports.

Unite Republicans in NJ

“As a candidate, my job is to unify the party,” Ciattarelli said in an interview. “And there’s one thing all 1.4 million Republicans agree on – and it’s not easy to accomplish, but there’s one thing we all agree on.” And is that Phil Murphy should not have a second term.

Ciattarelli said that “there is a glaring difference” between him and Murphy – from their personal backgrounds, with Ciattarelli born, raised and educated in New Jersey and Murphy from Massachusetts, to their professional backgrounds, with Ciattarelli founder of companies of medical publishing and retired Murphy. The executive of Goldman Sachs, to their political philosophies, with Ciattarelli calling himself a “common sense conservative” and Murphy as a shameless progressive.

Ciattarelli said Murphy’s goals for a second term were unclear.

“He didn’t tell us what he was going to do, but I can tell you what he is not going to do. It is not going to tackle the property tax crisis. It is not going to tackle the business climate crisis. And he’s not going to tackle the public pension crisis. It’s also not going to address how we do affordable housing in this state, which is different from the other 49, ”he said. “He’s never talked about these issues because it’s tough and he doesn’t want to be tough. Instead, he is circling the state waving a victory flag because we gave parolees to vote and illegal immigrants to drive licenses.

Murphy’s pitch for a second term

Murphy easily won the re-appointment, as the only candidate on the Democratic ballot.

Murphy’s campaign website has 14 topics in its “On The Issues” section, each containing summaries of Murphy’s first term on the topic or legislative or budget proposals that have already been made. No new campaign pledges are included.

“We have done so much together in the past 40 months in office,” Murphy said at a campaign rally in Union City highlighted by his campaign. “We have tackled huge inequalities. We have developed our state. We have put in place tax fairness. We stood up for women’s health. Our work is not finished. We are on a trip and we still need four years.

Murphy said he wanted to build on the progress of the past four years.

“As we look to the future of New Jersey, one thing is certain: we cannot go back to the failed paths of the past,” said Murphy. “Our state needs principled leadership with forward-looking solutions to meet our toughest challenges. “

Murphy’s approval ratings

Murphy enters general election season with a major advantage. The latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll reveals that in a hypothetical one-on-one clash, 52% of registered voters would vote for Murphy and 26% for Ciattarelli. Murphy was ahead of 10 points among the self-identified independents.

“New Jersey has seen uncompetitive governor races for the past two cycles, and this race doesn’t appear to be the exception at the moment,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. Rutgers University. “Murphy currently has a stronger lockdown on his base than Ciattarelli and is beating him among the Indies right now with a double-digit lead.”

A Monmouth University poll conducted a month ago found that Murphy had a 57% job approval rating. Forty-eight percent of voters said he should be re-elected, while 43 percent felt it was time to have someone else in power. In the Eagleton poll, Murphy’s advantage in this generic question was 11 points.

Rowan University political scientist Ben Dworkin said given Murphy’s position in the polls and Democrats’ voter registration advantage, the incumbent has the edge.

“Jack Ciattarelli could absolutely win. But Democrats have to screw it up, or there has to be some outside event that disrupts the current situation,” Dworkin said.

“The point is, Phil Murphy united the Democrats. It has the ability to use its own significant resources. He has a track record of pretty popular things, such as affordability of universities, raising the minimum wage, and imposing the millionaire tax, ”Dworkin said.

Republicans have won six of New Jersey’s last 10 gubernatorial elections – although four of them were held before 2000, and the state has been broadly Democratic. Democrats have won three of the last five governor’s races and hold 64% of the seats in the state legislature.

“It’s a very partisan atmosphere in the electorate these days, and I think it’s going to matter to a lot of people whether you have a D or an R next to your name,” Dworkin said.

Governor Chris Christie is the only Republican to achieve statewide victory in 24 years – for governor, US Senate or president. Christie’s 2013 re-election and Gov. Tom Kean’s re-election in 1985 mark the only two times a Republican has won more than 50 percent of the vote in a New Jersey statewide race since 1972.

Three minor party governor candidates also filed petitions to be on the November ballot before Tuesday’s deadline: Madelyn Hoffman of the Green Party, Joanne Kuniasky of the Socialist Workers’ Party and Gregg Mele of the Libertarian Party.

Three other independents had filed documents with the Election Law Enforcement Commission to establish their candidacies, but the Elections Division had not reported receiving their nomination petitions. They are Justin Maldonado, Mohammad Kabir and David Winkler.

Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].

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