Former NJ Assembly member wins GOP berth to challenge Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy

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A former New Jersey Assembly member is the projected winner of the GOP nomination in the governor’s race, defeating other candidates who campaigned as close allies of former President Donald Trump.

Multiple news outlets called the race Tuesday evening for Jack Ciattarelli, a 59-year-old with a centrist voting record, when he had roughly 49% of the vote in the four-way Republican primary contest with 40% of precincts reporting. The projected win sets him up to face Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in the general election on Nov. 2.

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“After years of ineffective tax and spend policies from Phil Murphy, I know Jack will work hard to make it once again easily achievable for New Jersey families, senior citizens, and small businesses to prosper. I would like to congratulate Jack on his primary victory, and the RGA looks forward to working with him to defeat Gov. Murphy this fall,” said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who chairs the Republican Governors Association.

Two of his defeated opponents, Philip Rizzo and Hirsh Singh, distinguished themselves as pro-Trump candidates and cast Ciattarelli as a “Never Trump” and a RINO, or “Republican-in-name-only.” Trump did not endorse a candidate in the race.

Former Franklin Mayor Brian Levine was the fourth candidate, whose public opinion of Trump has shifted over the years. He referred to the former president as an embarrassing “charlatan” in 2015 and said Trump was “not fit to be president.”

But by January 2020, when he began his gubernatorial campaign, Ciattarelli attended Trump rallies, asserting Trump had “earned my support” with his policies, according to a report by NJ.com.

Ciattarelli, a former accountant and small business owner, has attacked the current governor on his COVID-19 lockdowns, some of which were considered among the strictest measures in the country.

“Make no mistake, Phil Murphy has no problem hijacking our democracy and wielding the power of a king while making unilateral decisions without any regard to whom he is impacting,” Ciattarelli said last week in accordance with the state pushing to end Murphy’s public health emergency declaration, according to the Record.

Murphy ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and is poised to be in a strong position to win reelection, given his high approval ratings.

In a campaign ad released Tuesday night, Murphy touched on his own record in office, highlighting his initiatives to combat climate change, diversify the state government, and his handling of the pandemic.

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“There are some that want to take us back to the way things were before when New Jersey only worked for the wealthy and the well-connected,” Murphy said. “We cannot go back. We have to keep moving forward and build on all of the progress that we’ve already made together. Thank you for putting your faith in me. Let’s go.”

Source : Former NJ Assembly member wins GOP berth to challenge Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy