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Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor. (Photo: NJ Globe File Photo).

This week in the gubernatorial race

Murphy expands Pre-K, Ciattarelli declares economic war, and more

By Joey Fox, September 17 2021 4:21 pm

Murphy makes a play for the four-year-old vote

At a Thursday press conference in Palisades Park, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the expansion of the state’s existing Pre-K network alongside a commitment to eventually reach universal preschool for all New Jerseyans.

State Democrats quickly made it clear that the governor’s promise would also be a campaign cudgel, hitting Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli the same day for a years-old op-ed in which he criticized universal, state-run Pre-K. For his part, Ciattarelli said that he supported expanded preschool, but wanted it to be centered on the private sector.

Ciattarelli becomes economic warlord

Ciattarelli made waves with his own press conference on Thursday, declaring that under his rule New Jersey would become the “envy of the other 49 states,” and that he would “declare economic war” on the rest of the union.

More specifically, Ciattarelli was proposing changes to the state’s tax system in order to make it more hospitable for businesses. Ciattarelli’s campaign has made the state’s taxes, which he considers high and unfair, a major component of his campaign since the beginning.

Advertisements: Murphy tells us what his job is

The Murphy campaign went on the air with two new TV advertisements this week. 

The first, a positive spot entitled “My Job,” depicts Murphy narrating his job as governor as he sees it. “My job? Moving New Jersey forward,” he says to the camera. “And making New Jersey work for all of us.”

The second, “Our Way,” is a negative ad aimed at Ciattarelli, slamming the Republican for attending a “Stop the Steal” rally in Bedminster last November. It isn’t the first time Murphy has attacked Ciattarelli over the rally; Ciattarelli has said that he didn’t know the rally’s true purpose when he attended it.

Polls: Polling, polling, wherefore art thou polling?

The most recent polling in the race remains a mid-August poll from Monmouth University that showed Murphy up 52-36%, and a late August Republican internal poll from Fabrizio Lee that had Murphy leading by a much tighter 43-41% margin. 

Endorsements: Fraternal Order of Police doesn’t consider Murphy their brother

This week’s most notable endorsement was a lack thereof: the Fraternal Order of Police, the state’s second-largest law enforcement union, declined to back anyone in the gubernatorial race. It’s a loss for Murphy, whom the FOP endorsed last year, but still better than if the union, which backed Donald Trump in 2020, had endorsed Ciattarelli.

Murphy also nabbed the endorsement of the Latino Action Network, a Latino advocacy group that previously backed him in 2017.

Fundraising: State gives Goldman Sachs executive money

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) approved over $3 million in additional funds for the gubernatorial campaign this week – $1,506,822 for Murphy and $1,769,448 for Ciattarelli.

Thus far, Murphy has far outstripped his opponent, receiving $7.4 million in matching funds compared to $4.8 million for Ciattarelli. The state provides candidates with $2 for every $1 raised over a $156,000 threshold; both candidates have agreed to a $15.6 million cap on campaign expenditures.

Coming soon: Ballots, debates, and more

Mail ballots will start going out to voters this weekend, meaning that the earliest votes may be cast by as early as Monday. In future weekly updates, the Globe will provide a breakdown of the votes received to-date.

The first gubernatorial debate is also fast approaching, with Murphy and Ciattarelli squaring off at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark at 7 p.m on September 28. The New Jersey Globe will host a lieutenant gubernatorial debate a week later, at 7 p.m. on October 5.

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