The New Jersey Democratic State Committee attacked Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli over his association with an anti-vaccine Assembly candidate in the fourth legislative district Wednesday.
“Spreading fear and lies about vaccinations is incredibly irresponsible, particularly as public health officials are working hard to build trust with people who are hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. This is par for the course for a career politician like Jack Ciattarelli who is so desperate that he’s willing to align himself with any radical group that he thinks will help him win,” Democratic State Committee Executive Director Saily Avelenda said.
The attack targets Denise Gonzalez, a founder of the anti-vaccine group New Jersey Medical Freedom Advocates and a district leader of the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination choice who was involved in a successful bid to stop the state from removing a religious vaccination exemption for school-aged children.
The bill’s supporters said the exemption was abused by people who disbelieved vaccine science but had no religious opposition to vaccination. It would have kept in place existing medical exemptions.
“I believe in Jack Ciattarelli because he believes parental rights, medical freedom, bodily autonomy and religious rights. Because of this, I ask you to please vote for Jack in November,” Gonzalez said in a brief video posted to Ciattarelli’s Twitter account.
Ciattarelli opposes vaccine passports and mandatory COVID-19 inoculations and has advocated against both on the campaign trail.
A Project Ready poll released in mid-May found 39% of New Jersey Republicans said they would definitely not get vaccinated against the virus. Another 10% said they probably would not.
“Governor Murphy’s arrogant attempt to discredit a Latina mom and a Marine Corps veteran simply because she supports Jack Ciattarelli and believes in medical freedom is telling,” Ciattarelli Communications Director Stami Williams said. “Jack and Melinda voluntarily had their four children vaccinated and Jack received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. If Ms. Gonzalez feels differently, that is her choice, and Jack supports her right to feel that way.”
Murphy expressed support for vaccine passports in March but never moved to enact the policy. He’s not aiming to require vaccines, though New Jersey’s universities and businesses have been allowed to enact their own mandates.
The fourth legislative district is overwhelmingly Democratic.