(The Center Square) – Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli cruised to victory Tuesday in New Jersey’s Republican gubernatorial primary.
Ciattarelli will face off against incumbent Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy in November’s general election.
With 89% of precincts reporting, Ciattarelli picked up more than 49% of the votes cast, according to Ballotpedia. He defeated the Rev. Philip Rizzo of New Vernon, Hirsh Singh of Linwood and former Franklin Mayor Brian D. Levine.
“The fact is, after four years of Murphy’s failed leadership, our state is struggling,” Ciattarelli said in a news release. “New Jersey pays the highest property taxes in the nation. Small businesses have been decimated. 8,000 seniors and veterans died. New Jerseyans from Cape May to High Point have been forgotten and ignored. We need a governor who puts New Jersey first. A governor who will listen to and respect everyone, even those who may disagree.”
Ciattarelli, who served in the state Assembly from 2011 until 2018, ran for governor in 2017 but lost in the Republican primary.
“We can either keep New Jersey moving forward or go backward,” various outlets quoted Murphy as saying in a statement. “It’s a choice between standing for higher wages or going back to an economy that only worked for the wealthy and well-connected.”
Meanwhile, a new Rutgers-Eagleton statewide poll of 1,004 adults released Tuesday shows Murphy, who hopes to be the first Democrat in New Jersey to win reelection since Brendan Byrne in 1977, has an advantage heading into November’s race.
If the election were held today, 52% of registered voters said they would vote for Murphy, while 26% said they would vote for Ciattarelli.
While the poll found Murphy winning 83% of his Democratic base and two-thirds of Republicans backing Ciattarelli, independents are more of a tossup. Nearly one in five (19%) said they don’t yet know who to vote for, while 39% are leaning toward Murphy, and 29% are looking to support Ciattarelli.
“New Jersey has seen some uncompetitive gubernatorial races the past couple of cycles, and this race does not seem to be the exception right now,” Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a news release. “Murphy currently has a stronger lock on his base than Ciattarelli and beats him among independents right now by a double-digit lead.”
The Rutgers-Eagleton poll was fielded May 21-29. It has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.