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Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Ciattarelli swept all 21 counties

First challenger candidate in more than 100 years to win 21 counties in GOP primary

By David Wildstein, June 09 2021 4:00 am

Jack Ciattarelli won a decisive 23-point victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary after sweeping all 21 counties in his bid to take on Gov. Phil Murphy in the general election.

Ciattarelli leads real estate developer-turned-pastor Phil Rizzo by 71,517 votes, 49%-26%, with perennial candidate Hirsh Singh finishing third with 21% of the vote.  Brian D. Levine, a former Franklin mayor and Somerset County freeholder, received 3%.  About 89% of the votes have been counted so far.

The former three-term assemblyman from Somerset County had the backing of all 21 county GOP organizations and the lines held for him everywhere.  Ciattarelli has become the first Republican candidate in more than 100 years to win all 21 counties in his first run for governor.

Ciattarelli came out of Ocean with a margin of about 10,000, with pluralities of more than 9,000 in Morris and Bergen, 5,000 in Somerset and 4,000 in Monmouth.

His biggest percentages came out of Cape May (61.7%), Atlantic (58.6%), Bergen (58.3%), Essex (55.7%), and Somerset (55.2%).  Ciattarelli only dipped below 40% in two counties: Warren (38.9%) and Salem (38.3).

Statewide turnout is running at about 21.4% — about the same as 2017.  Voter turnout was highest in Hunterdon (28.7%), Cape May (27.2%), Ocean (27.1%), Sussex (25.9%), and Morris (25.5%).

Rizzo outpolled Singh in 13 counties, with Singh finishing second in Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May and Cumberland.  Four other counties are closely split between the two.

Singh, the Peter Pan of New Jersey politics, received 36% of the vote in his unsuccessful for the U.S. Senate in the 2020 GOP primary and 21% in his run for governor.  His total votes dropped by 54%.  This was his 5th run for public office since 2017.

The two combined for 148,222 votes – just slightly more than the 140,946 that Steve Lonegan received in the 2009 gubernatorial primary against Chris Christie.   Levine’s 9,901 vote total is around the same as the 9,184 that went to Rick Merkt in 2009.

Historically, Ciattarelli’s 49% is consistent with other Republican candidates who have gone on to win their first general election.  William Cahill won his primary with 39% in 1969, Thomas Kean with 30% in 1981, and Christine Todd Whitman with 40%  in 1993.  Christie won his primary with 55% in 2009.

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