The grand total spent on this year’s gubernatorial primary set a new record, 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.