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

This week in the gubernatorial race

Prominent visits, milquetoast editorials, and more

By Joey Fox, October 22 2021 4:12 pm

Ciattarelli brings in the least objectionable Romney he can find

As Murphy hosts the nation’s biggest Democratic players for his campaign, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ciattarelli brought in one of his own this week: Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel

McDaniel rallied the troops for Ciattarelli and other local Republican candidates at the Burlington County Republican headquarters, and said in an interview afterwards that she sees Ciattarelli as being part of the national Republican Party’s big tent.

Vaad news for Republicans

Last Friday, the Lakewood Vaad – Orthodox Jewish religious leaders in the fast-growing Ocean County township – gave Gov. Phil Murphy their backing, repeating their endorsement from 2017. Unlike most general election endorsements, this one comes with a sizable number of near-guaranteed votes; with the Vaad’s support in 2017, Murphy was able to narrowly carry Lakewood only a year after Donald Trump won it with 74% of the vote.

New contract? New mandate

Murphy added one further category to the list of vaccine-or-testing mandated New Jerseyans: state-contracted workers who enter new or updated contracts with the state. Those already working under currently existing contracts won’t be subject to the mandate.

Ciattarelli has attempted to make political hay out of Murphy’s Covid mandates, which also apply to state workers, health care workers, and school and day care personnel, but most polling has shown voters are predominantly with Murphy.

Advertisements: Murphy lets eight strangers sit in his chair

A new Murphy campaign ad, “If I,” asks eight average New Jerseyans to sit at Murphy’s desk and say what they’d do as governor – and, lo and behold, everything they say is a progressive policy Murphy’s fought for. “That’s what I’d do,” they say, to which Murphy responds: “So that’s what I’ve done. So far.”

Polls: Single the digits, double the fun

A poll released yesterday by Emerson University and PIX 11 News gives Ciattarelli his smallest deficit of the campaign yet, finding him losing to Murphy by a 50-44% margin. Notably, the poll finds that only 16% of respondents haven’t heard of Ciattarelli; for comparison, a Stockton University poll from three weeks ago put that number at 45%.

Progressive pollster Schoen Cooperman Research also released a poll that got very little buzz last Friday, finding Murphy leading 50-41%. But among people who are certain to vote, Murphy leads only 48-46%, an indication that the incumbent’s main threat in November is low Democratic turnout. 

Endorsements: Vote for Murphy, I guess. If you want to. Whatever

Murphy received the entertainingly glum endorsement of the Star-Ledger this week, which ran an editorial yesterday entitled “Vote for Murphy. By default.” The editorial board questioned whether Murphy’s accomplishments have amounted to much, but expressed clear alarm at conservative positions taken by Ciattarelli, and ended up endorsing Murphy in what the editorial called “an acknowledgement that Murphy is the best candidate on the ballot, nothing more.”

Going even further was the Jersey Journal editorial board, which similarly blasted Ciattarelli’s conservative stances but said it couldn’t support Murphy because he hadn’t worked to protect Liberty State Park. The paper ultimately chose to advise voters to skip the top of the ticket this year entirely.

Another set of newspapers – the Bergen Record, Courier News, Home News Tribune, New Jersey Herald, Asbury Park Press, and Daily Record, all of them owned by Gannett – each ran an identical endorsement of Murphy this week. Gannett has gutted the local editorial coverage of most of its papers, leaving cookie-cutter endorsements in its place. 

Interestingly, though, the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times, and the Daily Journal, all also owned by Gannett, didn’t run the Murphy endorsement.

Outside of newspapers, Ciattarelli got the recommendation – but not the endorsement – of NJ Right to Life, an anti-abortion group. The group said they couldn’t endorse Ciattarelli “because of his support for abortion,” but still acknowledged that Ciattarelli is closer to their stances than Murphy is.

Finally, Murphy gained the endorsement of Operating Engineers Local 825 yesterday. While the union backed the governor in 2017, it’s been heavily critical of him in the years since, so the endorsement wasn’t necessarily inevitable. Also backing Murphy this week was the New Jersey State Electrical Workers Association Construction division of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (phew).

Fundraising: Murphy can’t take it anymore

Murphy maxed out on fundraising this week, hitting $15.6 million total; matching funds from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) make up $10.5 million of Murphy’s total, while Murphy raised the remainder himself. Ciattarelli, receiving another $804,689 in matching funds from ELEC, is now at 87% of his own limit.

ELEC also released data this week on the “Big Six” state party committees, referring to each party’s overall state committee, their Senate committee, and their Assembly committee. Across the six committees, Democrats drastically outraised and outspent Republicans, raising $8,186,953 versus Republicans’ $1,918,411.

Vote-by-mail: Voters spend $204,289.34 on stamps

As of today, 37% of all mail ballots sent to voters had been returned, meaning that 352,223 votes have already been cast; that’s 5.4% of all registered voters and around 16% of the total gubernatorial turnout in 2017. 

An ongoing analysis by the Rebovich Institute at Rider University found that Democrats unsurprisingly hold a huge edge in mail voting, with 65% of the 352,223 votes coming from Democrats.

Coming soon: Swing voter Philip D. Murphy casts his vote

It was reported last week that former President Barack Obama would be campaigning with Murphy to promote early voting; that event will be tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. But Murphy has since added to his collection of presidents, with current President Joe Biden coming to the state on Monday for an official infrastructure-related visit.

Before he meets with either president, though, Murphy will vote, presumably for himself. He’s planning on stopping by an early voting location tomorrow morning in Long Beach, making him one of the state’s first-ever early voters. The early voting period will begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow and run through next Sunday, October 31.

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