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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Murphy’s $7.8 million raised accounts for more than half of primary contributions

Incumbent leads challengers in fundraising, spending

By Nikita Biryukov, May 12 2021 10:22 am

New Jersey’s gubernatorial candidates have raised nearly $15 million and spent more than $12 million so far, and the money is heavily concentrated with two candidates — Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli.

With more than $7.8 million raised, Murphy accounts for more than half of the total primary fundraising. His nearly $6.9 million in spending is about 56% of everything that has been spent so far.

The governor had $951,373 on hand on May 7, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission said.

Ciattarelli’s funds account for most of the remainder. The former Assemblyman has raised nearly $5.7 million and spend just shy of $4.4 million. He reported having $1.3 million left in his war chest.

Fundraising and spending for the other candidates is far lower.

Perennial candidate Hirsh Singh, the only Republican aside from Ciattarelli to qualify for the party’s primary debates, has raised $527,353 and spent $457,497. He has $69,856 banked.

Hudson County Pastor Phil Rizzo, who did not qualify for public financing or the debate stage, has raised $563,263. His spending of $244,052 is lower than Singh’s, and he has $319,211 left in reserves.

Former Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine filed forms with ELEC saying he does not intend to spend more than $5,800 on the primary.

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Steinhardt has $26,527 in the bank after raising $248,345 and spending $221,819. Steinhardt dropped out of the race in January, not long after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Despite the relative wealth of Murphy and the Republican frontrunner, overall fundraising is about half of what it was in 2017, when eleven candidates had raised $28 million by this point in the cycle.

“More candidates usually run during years without incumbents seeking reelection,” ELEC Executive Director Brindle said. “The large amount of money spent on the primary by candidates themselves also made 2017 more expensive.”

Murphy, for example, invested $16.3 million of his own money into the 2017 primary. Another $1.5 million came from other candidates’ wallets or family members.

That number dropped to $561,085 this year. A $418,000 personal loan Singh made to his campaign, coupled with $4,900 contributions from his parents, account for the vast majority of those funds.

Ciattarelli has given $25,000 to his campaign, the most he can donate without jeopardizing his public fund match, and his family has contributed an additional $28,800.

Murphy and his family have donated $24,500 to his primary war chest.

New Direction New Jersey, an issues advocacy non-profit run by Murphy allies, has raised $13.7 million since being formed, and it’s spent roughly $13.2 million, though it’s not clear how much of that money was disbursed this year.

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