Independent Spending in NJ Gubernatorial Election Hits Record High

More independent spending has been thrown into New Jersey’s gubernatorial race between incumbent Governor Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli than in all of the state’s history, according to filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

Groups allied with Murphy and Ciattarelli have already spent $25.2 million to promote their candidate of choice, and together with $13.4 million in pre-primary and primary spending, the total price tag for the election so far is a stunning $38.6 million. That number is expected to rise even further as more money is dumped into advertisements and promotions a day before the Tuesday general election that will decide the race.

The massive spending is not only indicative of how both the Murphy and Ciattarelli campaigns and their allies are pulling all the stops to give their candidate the upper hand, but it is also a grim reminder of the role and growing influence “dark money” is having in New Jersey politics.

“Even this preliminary total already is a 57% increase over the previous high of $24.5 million in 2017, said ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle. “For more than a decade, we at ELEC have spoken about the growing influence of these so-called outside or independent groups. This year’s election already has taken it to new heights.”

Over the course of the campaign, both the Republican Governors Association (RGA) and Democratic Governors Association (DGA) have thrown millions behind their candidates, with nearly $2 million spent by the groups in recent days alone.

So far, the RGA has outspent the DGA $3.1 million to $2.7 million in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race. Combined, the two have spent $5.9 million, exceeding the total of $5.5 million spent in 2017, when Governor Murphy was first elected to the executive mansion.

While the current gubernatorial election has seen the most spending in state history by outside groups, the total spending is still far from the most New Jersey has ever seen in a race for governor.

In 2005, Democratic Senator Jon Corzine and Republican Doug Forrester spent $87.8 million – $123 million in today’s money – in a showdown that saw Garden State residents pummeled with endless ads and campaign flyers. The staggering spending was mostly financed by Corzine’s and Forrester’s personal fortunes.

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