A Hudson County pastor announced he would seek the Republican nod to take on Gov. Phil Murphy Monday.
“New Jersey, it’s time to get our lives back,” Phil Rizzo. “We’re ready to put fear behind us, stand up for ourselves and our families, and get our state prospering again.”
Rizzo, who lost his right arm as a child, entered the race promising to lift restrictions enacted to stem the spread of COVID-19, promising to end remote schooling, lower taxes and push school choice.
“It’s time to reclaim the prosperity of New Jersey. It’s time to go back to work again, get our kids back in school, reopen our small businesses, report profits instead of losses, plan for retirement again, and empower New Jerseyans to overcome the challenges we face,” he said. “If I have the privilege of becoming your Governor, I will work to get the government out of your way and reverse this economic downturn.”
In 2019, Sussex County Republicans tapped Rizzo to review the organization’s social media pages after GOP Chairman Jerry Scanlan made a series of racist posts that included calls to “eradicate Islam from every town, city, county and state in our homeland.”
The gubernatorial candidate has his own history of controversial posts, including ones trafficking false claims about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“The liberals have captured video of antifa breaking windows and are running with their ‘Trump terrorist’ narrative,” he said in a Jan. 7 Facebook post. “This must be shared far & wide.”
Rizzo also has the backing of Billy Prempeh, a former GOP congressional candidate best known for his embrace of Qanon, the baseless conspiracy that claims Democrats are engaged in a global child sex trafficking ring.
The New Providence resident joins the race as establishment Republicans have increasingly thrown their support behind former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough), the race’s clear frontrunner.
The coalescing GOP support for Ciattarelli leaves the other Republican candidates vying for an increasingly smaller vote share even as the party’s field widens.
Former Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine, businessman Joseph Rudy Rullo and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh have each announced gubernatorial bids.
Former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt and Ocean County Commissioner Joe Vicari launched bids but have since withdrawn their candidacies.