A two-judge appellate panel ruled Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo is not eligible for the state’s public fund matching program Friday, delivering another blow to the Hudson County pastor’s hopes of defeating frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli.
The latest denial follows two others delivered by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, which last month twice ruled Rizzo’s application for public dollars, filed at 8 p.m. a day after the deadline, was deficient.
Politico New Jersey first reported the appellate court’s ruling.
The candidate argued ELEC erred by failing to liberally construe the state’s election laws. New Jersey judges often take a compromising view of title 19, the portion of the state code governing elections, but Judges Jose L. Fuentes and Mary Gibbons Whipple found the candidate provided to legal reasons why ELEC’s decision should be overturned.
Rizzo’s initial application, submitted on April 6, was late and did not include information about how the Republican intended to spend the $490,000 needed to qualify for the fund match.
A second application to the commission filed roughly two weeks late was also denied. That submission included information about how Rizzo planned to spend the funds, though many of the contracts his campaign proffered were dated after the April 5 deadline.
He can still appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court, though it’s not clear whether he will. John Carbone, an attorney for the Rizzo campaign, did not immediately return an 11:17 a.m. call seeking comment.
The appellate court decision is a blow to Rizzo’s primary prospects. Ciattarelli, a former Assemblyman, has already received $2.9 million in matching funds, while Gov. Phil Murphy has maxed out his $4.6 million primary fund match.