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Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor. (Photo: NJ Globe File Photo).

This week in the gubernatorial race

Lieutenant gubernatorial standoffs, presidential endorsements, and more

By Joey Fox, October 08 2021 5:12 pm

Forget Jack and Phil, this week was about Diane and Sheila

Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Oliver and former State Sen. Diane Allen met on Tuesday for the campaign season’s only lieutenant gubernatorial debate, a week after Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli did the same.

It was for the most part a low-key debate, with few headlines that could be made of it for either side. Oliver and Allen each defended the records of their own running mates; Allen attacked Oliver over Covid deaths in nursing homes, while Oliver hit Allen on gun safety and abortion. The biggest takeaway was probably that Allen and Oliver are operating in lockstep with their broader campaigns – but they seem to like each other more than Ciattarelli and Murphy do.

Advertisements: Ciattarelli’s Main Street becomes Pain Street

The state Democratic committee began airing an ad this week drawing attention to an NJ.com report which found that Ciattarelli’s medical publishing business published pharma-funded content downplaying the potential for opioid abuse. 

“Jack Ciattarelli is hiding the truth about his business record,” the ad’s narrator says. “Ciattarelli made millions misleading people about the risks of opioids. The cost? Thousands of New Jersey families devastated by opioid abuse. He profited while New Jersey families suffered. We can’t trust him to lead our state.”

Polls: All quiet on the pollster front

No new polls were released this week, with the most recent polling being a Stockton University poll from September 29 that found Murphy leading Ciattarelli by nine points.

If history is any guide, we’ll likely see at least one more Monmouth poll before the campaign is over; in every recent gubernatorial race, Monmouth has conducted at least one poll in October. The most recent Monmouth poll this cycle, from September, showed Murphy with a 13-point lead over Ciattarelli.

Endorsements: Murphy gets shocking Biden endorsement

Murphy nabbed endorsements from a number of high profile Democrats and liberal groups this week – endorsements Ciattarelli wouldn’t ever stand a chance of getting, but that may help Murphy make his case to New Jersey progressives that they should turn out this November.

On Wednesday, Murphy got possibly the most high-profile Democratic endorsement in the country: that of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who called him “the partner [we] need in Trenton.” Harris also visited Murphy, along with two of the state’s members of Congress, to promote child care and vaccines.

Yesterday, Murphy followed it up with an endorsement from gun control advocate and former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), hours after he announced a multi-state initiative to combat gun violence. And just this morning, the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign gave Murphy their support.

Ciattarelli, for his part, got the endorsement of the Association of Builders and Contractors, a construction firm association that typically backs Republicans.

But one organization that’s likely to stay on the sidelines is the Police Benevolent Association. Reporting from this week suggests that the PBA is going to follow the lead of its counterpart, the Fraternal Order of Police, and not endorse either candidate this cycle; both police unions endorsed Murphy in 2017. 

Fundraising: Mo matching funds, mo problems

Ciattarelli got another $1.1 million in matching funds today, versus $640,000 for Murphy, further closing the gap between the two candidates. Murphy’s still way ahead overall, though, and has reached 90% of his total fundraising cap, while Ciattarelli is only at 71% of his.

Coming soon: Ciattarelli and Murphy have to tolerate each other for one more hour

Next Tuesday at 8 p.m. marks the final debate of the season, once again between Murphy and Ciattarelli. It will be hosted at Rowan University in Glassboro, and is sponsored by NJ PBS, NJ Spotlight News, the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University, New York Public Radio, WNYC, and Gothamist.

And we’re only two weeks away from the beginning of the state’s first-ever early voting period, which Murphy and the Secretary of State’s office have assured will run smoothly despite the many new things the state will be attempting at once.

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