Public matching fund disbursements soaring in NJ gov race

Election 2021. New Jersey’s public matching fund program goes back to 1974. It lets candidates get $2 in public cash for every $1 raised.

| 16 Sep 2021 | 01:08

    New Jersey’s public matching fund program has disbursed nearly double what it did four years ago, with the Republican candidate outperforming his predecessor, new figures out Monday show.

    Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is the top fundraiser, however.

    He’s gotten about $6.7 million so far, while his GOP rival former Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli received about $4.3 million, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission. Four years ago at this point, $5.7 million had been disbursed for both parties.

    Murphy’s figures are 64% of the $10.5 million he’s eligible to receive, while Ciattarelli’s haul is 41% of the same figure.

    The incumbent governor is aiming to become the first Democrat reelected in more than four decades. His fundraising is doing slightly better than at the same point four years ago.

    But Ciattarelli is outpacing former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who ran atop the GOP ticket in 2017. At this time four years ago, she had gotten just 13% of the total she was eligible to get.

    Even though he’s raising more money than Republicans four years ago, he’s still trailing Murphy.

    The disparity doesn’t look good for Ciattarelli, who’s been trailing in polls, said Brigid Harrison, who chairs the political science and law department at Montclair State University.

    ``He can’t just match the governor. He’s got to outspend him, two, three, four times to one,’’ said Harrison, who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat in New Jersey in 2020. ``One of the very few ways in which he could do that would be by nationalizing the campaign that so much money is pouring in from outside of the state.``

    About 97% of Ciattarelli’s funds come from in-state, according to ELEC figures. Murphy also gets most of his money from in-state, though it’s about 81%.

    New Jersey’s public matching fund program goes back to 1974. It lets candidates 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 $10.5 million. Spending for candidates getting public money is limited to $15.6 million in the general election.

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

    Voters can cast ballots in person this year, unlike last year when they mostly had to vote by mail because of COVID-19.

    This will be New Jersey’s first year with early in-person voting. That starts Oct. 23 and goes until Halloween.

    Election Day is Nov. 2.

    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.