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Murphy primary campaign spending dwarfs GOP rivals’

June 2, 2021 GMT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has spent more in the primary than all the GOP potential opponents combined, new figures from state regulators showed Wednesday.

Murphy, who is running unopposed in Tuesday’s primary, has spent $7.2 million so far, according to a report from the Election Law Enforcement Commission, which offered a snapshot about a week out from the contest.

Five Republican candidates — including one who has since dropped out of the race — have spent $7.1 million in their effort to take Murphy on in the fall election.

New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states electing a governor this year.

So far, Murphy has raised about $7.8 million and has $584,000 cash on hand. Former Republican Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli has raised $6.9 million and spent about $5.9 million, according to the commission. He has more than $900,000 cash on hand.

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Ciattarelli faces Atlantic County engineer and previously unsuccessful candidate Hirsh Singh, Hudson County pastor Phil Rizzo and former Somerset County official Brian Levine.

Ciattarelli is a former Assembly member who ran and lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination four years ago. He’s a certified public accountant and founder of a medical publishing company.

Republican support across the state has coalesced around Ciattarelli, though he still faces challengers who deride him as too weak a supporter of former President Donald Trump.

Unlike 2017, when Murphy had primary challengers and loaned his campaign more than $16 million, he’s accepting public matching funds. So is Ciattarelli. They are the only two candidates in the race who qualified.

Murphy’s and Ciattarelli’s fundraising totals include matching funds, according to the commission.

New Jersey’s public matching fund program goes back to 1974. It permits candidates to get $2 in public cash for every $1 raised. Candidates must have raised $490,000 to qualify for the funds, and there’s a cap of $4.6 million. Spending for candidates getting public money is limited to $7.3 million in the primary.

Matching funds are financed through donations from state income tax forms and through the general fund.

Unlike voting last year, which was done almost entirely by mail-in ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters can cast ballots in person this year.

A new early in-person voting law Murphy signed earlier this year won’t be in effect. It’s expected to provide for early in-person voting in the November election.

New Jersey has 1 million more Democratic voters than Republicans, and registered Democrats now outnumber unaffiliated voters, who had been the largest bloc for years.