A new TV ad from Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign whacks challenger Jack Ciattarelli for his attendance at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Bedminster last November, something the Republican gubernatorial candidate has repeatedly downplayed during his campaign.
The spot looks to tie Ciattarelli to former President Donald Trump. It began airing on Wednesday morning on New York and Philadelphia broadcast television and on statewide cable networks.
The ad, “Our Way,” uses footage from the 2020 rally and from a protest by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. It’s Murphy’s first TV ad that goes on the offensive against Ciattarelli.
Script: (Narrator) “Confederate flags. White supremacists. And Jack Ciattarelli. Pushing Trump’s lies. (Ciattarelli) Working hard to make sure things go our way. (Narrator) They tried to make things go their way. Now Ciattarelli is pushing Trump’s extreme agenda. (Ciattarelli) I supported Donald Trump’s policies. (Narrator) Ciattarelli would roll back our right to choose. Roll back affordable health care…voting rights…gun safety. Pushing Trump’s agenda…and his lies. Jack Ciattarelli. We’re not going back.”
While Ciattarelli has maintained that he didn’t know the purpose of the rally was to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential campaign, images used in the Murphy ad show Ciattarelli standing in front of a “Stop the Steal” banner and includes shots of a crowd waving “Stop the Steal” banners – and in one case, a confederate flag.
Ciattarelli told the Star-Ledger in February that he didn’t see any signs or banners.
Footage from the rally used in Murphy’s ad came from Michael Shatravka, a photographer and political activist from Bayonne who now runs a Miami-based media production company. Shatravka was involved in an unsuccessful effort to recall Murphy.
In March, Ciattarelli told Jersey Matters host Larry Mendte said he was invited by the organizer of the rally, saying that he was told it was a “121 Rally” – the governor and all 120 seats in the state legislature.
“If he had told me it was a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally, I would not have attended. I don’t think those were good for the nation,” Ciattarelli said. “Joe Biden’s our legitimate president.”
He said there he saw no indication of the rally’s intent.
“I was there very early on and I left only a half hour into the event. I understand that it did turn into something else later on,” Ciattarelli stated. “When a great many more people showed up and it turned into a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally.”
In a separate video of a Berkeley Heights Republican meeting held virtually in January, Ciattarelli denied knowing that the rally had been organized to protest Biden’s election.
The Murphy campaign did not say how much they are spending on the attack ad.
This is the second general election ad from the Murphy campaign and the second this week. The campaign began airing a positive spot on Monday morning as Murphy seeks to win a second term as governor in a state with one million more Democrats than Republicans.
A Monmouth University poll released in August showed Murphy with a 16-point lead, 52%-36%, against Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman from Somerset County.
Ciattarelli began airing his general election TV ads on August 12 slamming Murphy on high taxes.
Both candidates are participating in the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission’s public financing program, which allows that up to $10.5 million in matching funds with a spending cap of $15.6 million.
Murphy has received $6.7 million so far, while Ciattarelli has drawn $4.3 million.
The Ciattarelli campaign said Murphy’s ad was “misdleading.”
“Phil Murphy is starting his TV ad assault with misleading negative ads because he knows how close this race is and because he’s desperate to talk about anything other than his record of failure. He doesn’t want to talk about the taxes he raised, the lines at motor vehicle offices, the tolls he increased, the small businesses he closed or New Jersey’s highest COVID death rate in the world,” said Stami Williams, a Ciattarelli spokesperson. “It is no wonder that he wants to distract from that and change the subject. Governor Murphy, the people of New Jersey aren’t knuckleheads and they aren’t this easy fooled.”
This story was updated at 1:49 PM.