Gov. Phil Murphy has raised more than $3.5 million for his re-election campaign, already qualifying for the maximum amount of public financing for the Democratic primary campaign after just three months of fundraising.
By raising $3.5 million, Murphy will receive about $4.6 million in matching funds. In exchange, he must agree to limit his primary campaign expenditures to $7.3 million – something the governor has already agreed to.
The success of a fundraising effort spearheaded by First Lady Tammy Murphy after the fourth quarter of 2020 means that the governor’s re-election campaign can immediately pivot to raising general election money.
“We pledge to run an efficient, inclusive and innovative campaign, and are fortunate to have been able to raise every cent of our primary funds before entering 2021,” said Murphy, who serves as campaign finance chair. “We will take nothing for granted as we continue our fight for a New Jersey that is stronger and fairer for everyone.”
With Tammy Murphy, a Gottheimeresque human fundraising machine, taking the reins of the campaign fundraising operation, the governor has largely avoided the burden of dialing for dollars as he deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From the beginning, we aimed to build a dedicated team of supporters committed to Phil’s vision of rebuilding New Jersey’s middle class and doing what’s right for the next generation, not just the next election,” the First Lady said. “Although we expected a strong response, we never anticipated the incredible energy and commitment we’ve since seen from every corner of New Jersey for the reelection effort.”
So far, Murphy has no announced opposition for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
One Republican candidate, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Hillsborough), has already qualified for matching funds.
Ciattarelli had raised more than $1 million as of the end of November, which will net him at least $1.7 million in matching funds this month – an amount likely to grow when his December fundraising numbers are released.
The other major GOP candidate, former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, announced his gubernatorial bid on December 11.
In June 2020, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission raised the maximum contribution limit for a gubernatorial candidate from $4,300 to $4,900, increased the threshold to qualify for matching funds from $430,000 to $490,000, and upped the amount not matched from $138,000 to $156,000. Some administrative expenses are exempt from the fundraising cap.
“The First Lady and our campaign team have accomplished an extraordinary task in just three short months,” said Mollie Binotto, Murphy’s campaign manager. “During these challenging times, it’s inspiring to see so many New Jerseyans mobilize behind the Governor and his leadership during this pandemic. We’re honored to have such a strong team of supporters and pledge to be good stewards of our funds as our campaign continues to build momentum.”
Murphy will be the first incumbent governor to seek public financing in the primary election since Republican Christie Whitman sought a second term in 1997. Whitman did not qualify until February of her election year.
In 1985, Gov. Tom Kean did not qualify for matching funds until April, but did so by raising the maximum amount for an unopposed GOP primary.
Two other incumbents, Jon Corzine in 2009 and Chris Christie in 2013, did not seek matching funds in their primary elections – both had opponents – and were not subject to spending limits.
Murphy has already committed to public financing for the general election campaign.
In that race, he can receive up to $10.5 million in matching funds and is limited to spending $15.6 million.
The capped spending for Murphy for Governor does not include what outside groups can spend in New Jersey, including the Democratic State Committee and the Democratic Governors Association.
Murphy, who chaired the DGA in 2020, announced last year that he is staying on as finance chairman in 2021 – a year when only New Jersey and Virginia have gubernatorial races.
When he ran for office in 2017, Murphy spent $22.5 million of his own money to win the Democratic nomination. He faced to cap since he did not seek public financing.
Two of his primary rivals qualified for matching funds: former Assistant U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jim Johnson received $2 million; and Assemblyman John Wisniewski brought in $1.3 million.
Murphy accepted public funds in the general election, receiving the maximum $9.3 million. His Republican opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, qualified for a match of $3.7 million.
Ciattarelli received nearly $1.1 million in public financing in his primary campaign against Guadagno in 2017. Guadagno received $2.25 million.
New Jersey’s public financing law was first approved in 1974 as part of a post-Watergate reform package.