The power of incumbency is well-acknowledged: It confers the bully pulpit, name recognition and better access to fundraising. It also can save candidates a boatload in personal moolah. Exhibit One in that regard is our own Gov. Phil Murphy. When the former Goldman Sachs executive first ran for governor in 2017, he lashed out $16.3 million of his personal wealth on that year’s primary election. Now running for reelection, his reduced outlay of personal funds this time around would put a smile on the face of any financial adviser: The governor and four family members so far have contributed a total of $24,500 toward his primary campaign fund, meaning a comparative savings of $16,275,000.
With a month to go before the June 8 primary, Murphy — who has no Democratic challengers — is the clear leader in fundraising among gubernatorial candidates, having raised $7.8 million; he also has spent the most ($6.9 million), according to a campaign finance snapshot from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Of the four Republican candidates, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli is in the best financial position, having raised $5.7 million and spent $4.4 million. Murphy and Ciattarelli are the only two candidates to qualify for public matching funds. Hirsh Singh, another Republican, is not accepting matching funds, but did raise enough money to qualify for two Republican debates. Most of his money comes from personal assets: He has loaned $418,000 to his campaign and his parents each made $4,900 maximum contributions. A third Republican, Phil Rizzo, raised more than Singh — $563,263 vs. $527,353 — but missed qualifying for matching funds or the debates.
ELEC’s Executive Director Jeff Brindle noted that candidate fundraising is down from $28 million four years ago, when 11 candidates were running for the office previously held by former two-term Gov. Chris Christie.
The snapshot from ELEC also has details of spending by New Direction New Jersey, a 501(c)(4) issue-advocacy group favorable to Murphy that was formed shortly after his election in 2017 and is run by his former campaign manager. Since its formation, New Direction raised $13.7 million and spent $13.2 million.