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

This week in the gubernatorial race

Both candidates race across the state as the campaign draws to a close

By Joey Fox, October 29 2021 5:30 pm

Murphy, Ciattarelli vote for one another in show of sportsmanship

No, not really. 

Gov. Phil Murphy voted in Long Branch on Saturday morning, only around half an hour after in-person early voting opened for the first time in state history. The governor was rapturous about how good of a voting experience was afterwards, but confronted with relatively low in-person turnout so far, he said later in the week that the state’s voters still have to develop “muscle memory” for early voting.

Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli, meanwhile, voted just today in his hometown of Hillsborough, and concurred with Murphy in saying that getting voters accustomed to early voting may be “a slow growth kind of thing.”

Murphy reminds voters he has friends in high places

Murphy brought in several celebrity guests this past week to gin up enthusiasm in the final stretch. On Saturday, it was former President Barack Obama at a rally in Newark; then last night, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) worked the college crowd at Rutgers.

Republicans have in turn been scathingly critical of the many rallies, saying they’re a sign the Murphy campaign is flailing and that Democrats are running scared.

Ciattarelli, indefatigable campaigner that he is, has also been dashing up and down the state since early voting began. But as he’s insisted in the past, he’s waging his own campaign, and has brought in few outside figures to help him along the way.

New Jersey’s third senator, and only president, stops by

Also in the state with Murphy this week was President Joe Biden, visiting the state in an official capacity rather than as a campaign stop. The president, whose New Jersey approval rating was pegged by Monmouth at 43-49%, stopped at an elementary school in North Plainfield and the Portal Bridge in Kearny to emphasize the two prongs of his physical and social infrastructure plan.

Voting early and voting often 

As of today, the state has recorded a total of 564,273 votes, including 451,523 vote-by-mail ballots and 112,750 early votes. That accounts for only 8.6% of the state’s registered voters, but – in a sign of the state’s usually tepid off-year turnout – represents 25.7% of all votes cast in the 2017 gubernatorial election.

Polling: The more things change…

Befitting the campaign’s frenzied final days, no fewer than three independent polls have been released this week, all of which showed margins well in line with previous polling.

Monmouth University found the race largely unchanged from where it was last month: 50% for Murphy, 39% for Ciattarelli. The 11-point lead represents a steady decline from 13 points in September and 16 in August, but it would still be a definitive victory for the Murphy camp.

Both other pollsters in the field this week found a nine-point race: Murphy was up 50-41% in Stockton University’s poll, and 53-44% in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s poll. The three polls broadly match where the consensus on the race – high-single-digit or low-double-digit leads for Murphy – has settled.

Fundraising: Gubernatorial election spending surpasses budget of Grown Ups 2

Murphy hit his matching funds cap last week, while Ciattarelli is growing closer and closer to his; he received another $718,020 in funds on Wednesday, and is now at 94% of his total limit.

Murphy and Ciattarelli have each spent around $12.5 million on their general election campaigns, but because Murphy has raised more, he still has $3.5 million in cash-on-hand while Ciattarelli only has $700,000. The two candidates have also each been aided by tens of millions in outside spending, with the Democratic Governors Association and the New Jersey Education Association spending for Murphy and the Republican Governors Association spending for Ciattarelli. 

Total spending, which includes both the primary and general election periods, has now breached the $80 million barrier.

Coming soon: The tragic end of the New Jersey Globe gubernatorial recap

This is, of course, the final weekly recap of the governor’s race before Election Day; by this time next week, we’ll have known for days who won and by how much.

On election night, the Globe will be calling races as results come in for the governor’s race, legislative races, and municipal elections across the state. In the meantime, be sure to check out the New Jersey Globe Voter’s Guide, which includes a detailed look at the governor’s race as well as all 40 legislative districts.

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