There’s no need here to belabor the importance of money in New Jersey politics. So, let’s cut to the chase: The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has released the latest figures for spending in the primary campaign by candidates for governor; the data reflects fund-raising and spending between May 8 and May 25. The primary election is on June 8.
Incumbent Phil Murphy has raised the most and, though running unopposed, he also has spent the most; he raised $7.8 million and has spent $7.2 million of that. The financial picture among Republican candidates is decidedly lopsided. While the front-runner Jack Ciattarelli is giving the governor something of a run for his money in the financial stakes — Ciattarelli raised $6.9 million — the former Assemblyman has outraised his four GOP primary opponents by a mile. Phil Rizzo came closest, taking in close to one-tenth of Ciattarelli’s haul ($623,873), followed by Hirsh Singh ($549,811) and Douglas Steinhardt, who has withdrawn from the race ($248,345). Figures for Brian Levine were not available. And with the election less than a week away, Ciattarelli has far more cash on hand (over $900,000) than his in-party opponents.
Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director, points out that candidate spending in this year’s primary is much lower than in 2017 when there was plenty of competition for the governor’s office left vacant by the departure of two-term Gov. Chris Christie. “Candidates in 2017 had spent $28 million through the same period during the last governor’s race in 2017. That is nearly twice as much as the amount so far,” Brindle said. “However, the 2017 primary also had nearly twice as many candidates — 6 Democrats and 5 Republicans.”
Candidates who raise above a certain threshold — $490,000 in 2021 — can qualify for $2 of public financing for every $1 raised from private sources. To receive public funds, candidates must limit their primary spending to $7.3 million and can donate no more than $25,000 to their campaigns. Public funding in 2021 is limited to $4.6 million. This year, Murphy and Ciattarelli have qualified for public funding. Murphy qualifies for the full $4.6 million, but his campaign so far has requested $4.1 million. Ciattarelli to date has received $4.4 million in public funds.
Brindle notes that “the $8.5 million provided so far to the two candidates for the 2021 primary already exceeds the $6.7 million given out to four candidates during the entire 2017 primary.”