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Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo.

Rizzo takes public fund match appeal to court

By Nikita Biryukov, April 29 2021 11:25 am

Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo is taking his bid for public financing to court after the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission twice denied his application for matching funds.

The Hudson County pastor’s appeal, filed Monday, claims ELEC was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” in denying his application, which was submitted outside of normal operating hours a day after the deadline.

Politico New Jersey first reported Rizzo’s appeal.

Rizzo’s campaign says he had raised more than the $490,000 needed to qualify for public dollars ahead of the April 5 deadline to file for public financing.

His campaign submitted its initial application for matching funds after 8 p.m. on April 6. During an emergency hearing on an appeal to the commission last week, ELEC commissioners said that made it two days late.

They also found his application lacked required information about how he planned to spend his funds. That information was included in his second application to ELEC, filed roughly two weeks late, though many of the contracts his campaign submitted were dated after the April 5 deadline.

The campaign filed on an emergent basis, seeking an expedited hearing schedule. In a separate filing, ELEC agreed that the matter should be heard quickly.

Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli has already received roughly $2.9 million in public matching dollars. He’s the only GOP candidate to qualify for the program, which can provide candidates with up to $4.6 million in public funds for the primary.

Gov. Phil Murphy has already maxed out his primary fund match.

ELEC’s denials were a major blow to Rizzo’s campaign and a sizeable boon to Ciattarelli, who is running as a moderate and will benefit from the absence of a well-funded primary challenge.

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