Spending spree leaves Ciattarelli with thin coffers

Challenger spends millions on ad blitz, but outside groups give incumbent an edge

By: - October 6, 2021 1:29 pm

GOP gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli has less than $1.2 million banked in the former assemblyman’s bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo by Amanda Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

Gubernatorial spending sprees are in full swing.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli has spent just over $8.9 million during the general election campaign, nearly draining his campaign coffers and drawing him ever closer to a spending cap.

Ciattarelli’s spending, revealed in 29-day pre-election reports submitted to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, left the former assemblyman with less than $1.2 million banked in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy has spent less heavily, disbursing about $5.7 million since June, but the gap between his expenditures narrows significantly when independent expenditures that have overwhelmingly benefited the incumbent are taken into account. The incumbent still had about $7.3 million banked on Oct. 1, the last date covered by the filings released Wednesday.

The governor brought in a little more than $13 million since securing his party’s nomination in June. Ciattarelli has raised a little less than $11 million.

Both candidates are participating in New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program, which provides a 2-to-1 match on campaign contributions, up to a cap of $10.5 million for the general election.

Neither candidate has reached that cap, though the Democrat’s roughly $8.8 million in public funds raised during this cycle puts him closer to that limit than Ciattarelli, who has accepted about $6.3 million in public dollars.

More than half of the $5.7 million spent by the incumbent’s campaign since June — about $3.2 million — has gone toward media buys, with the overwhelming share, roughly $2.4 million, going to air time on cable and network television.

Murphy spent another $190,590 on mailers, and $291,384 has gone to media production. The incumbent’s spending on digital ads sits at $190,258.

Ciattarelli started making media buys earlier and in greater numbers than the governor. So far, he’s spent nearly $3.7 million on cable television spots. Another $1.9 million went to digital ads, and $456,972 was spent on network television airtime. He also spent $461,418 on radio ads and $116,350 on media consulting, both expenses the governor’s campaign had not incurred as of Oct. 1.

Outside spending

Outside groups have also spent heavily in the race.

Our New Jersey, a PAC formed by the Democratic Governors Association, where Murphy is finance chair and past chairman, has put $3.4 million behind Murphy. It has another $2.1 million left in its coffers. Its funding came largely from New Jersey groups and labor unions.

The PAC received $2.5 million from the independent expenditure arm of the New Jersey Education Association, Garden State Forward, which gave the same amount to the Committee to Build the Economy, another Democratic PAC, which spent $6.5 million boosting Murphy’s 2017 gubernatorial bid.

Outside spending from Republican groups has been slower so far. The Republican Governors Association has put just $409,777 into the contest, with another $71,203 in spending from Fix NJ Now, a pro-Ciattarelli PAC with $294,836 left in reserves.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.