The grand total spent on this year’s gubernatorial primary, even when prior years’ spending is adjusted for inflation, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
According to campaign reports due 20 days after the June 6 primary, candidates spent $33.7 million themselves and independent committees spent $8.8 million, mostly during 2016. The combined $42.5 million is the most spent in a primary on its face and even more than the previous record spent in 2001, which, when adjusted for inflation, totaled $41.2 million. The candidates and committees raised even more — almost $47.7 million
By far the biggest spender, responsible for more than half the total, was Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, a former Wall Street executive and U.S. Ambassador to Germany. He raised about $22 million — $16.3 million of which was from his own funds — and spent $21.7 million. For the general election, Murphy plans to seek public matching funds, which would force him to limit his total spending to $13.8 million.
According to ELEC, just three other New Jersey candidates have spent more in inflation-adjusted dollars than Murphy’s combined outlay of $21 million pursuing state or federal offices. The spending was in multiple elections: former Gov. Jon Corzine, $166 million; Steve Forbes, chairman of Forbes Media and twice a Republican candidate for president, $110 million; and Doug Forrester, president of a health benefits management firm and unsuccessful GOP nominee for U.S. Senate and governor, $46.5 million.
The second biggest spender was Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee, who raised $3.5 million and spent all but $89,000 of that.
More than a quarter of the independent spending, or $2.3 million, was spent in support of candidates who ultimately did not enter the race. Independent committees are expected to spend heavily in the general election for governor and for the Legislature.