New Jersey Republicans will hit the polls on June 8, Primary Day, to select one of four candidates to face off against incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy, who is running unopposed in the November General Election.
With two of the four candidates angling themselves as fervid supporters of former President Donald Trump, the primary results are a gauge on how GOP voters feel about the future of their fractured party.
Virginia, the only other state electing a governor this year, is also being closely watched.
Trump, who owns multiple properties in New Jersey and maintains a residence in Bedminster, has not endorsed any of the candidates.
- Professional background: Former 16th District Assemblyman (2011-2018) and small business founder
- Slogan: “Let’s fix New Jersey”
- Platform: Relaxing pandemic-era restrictions, growing the economy, lowering property taxes, ending the “sanctuary state” status for undocumented immigrants and affordable, accessible health care insurance
The Hillsborough resident ran and lost in the 2017 primary to former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who then lost to Murphy.
Ciattarelli has emerged as the front-runner in the four way-race, based on campaign donations and support from several county party leaders, including those in Bergen, Essex and Somerset counties.
Ciattarelli, who has called Trump a “charlatan” in the past, has focused his campaign more on criticizing Murphy. Over the past year, the conservative Republican has taken aim at Murphy’s handling of the pandemic, saying the state has been too slow to reopen and that the governor should be held responsible for the nursing home death rate.
- Professional background: Engineer, business owner
- Slogan: “For the people.”
- Platform: Growing the state’s economy, enacting a zero-tolerance stance on undocumented immigration, decentralizing education regulations, prioritizing transportation and infrastructure projects
The Atlantic City native and current Linwood resident unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 and a U.S. Senate seat in 2020.
The perennial candidate has based his campaign on being pro-Trump and supported the former president’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was “stolen.” He has also referred to Ciattarelli as a “Never Trump RINO.”
- Professional background: Hudson County pastor, former real estate developer
- Slogan: “Make New Jersey Great Again”
- Platform: Cutting state spending while lowering taxes, effective post-pandemic leadership and education reform
The Morris County resident is a political newcomer and a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump.
Rizzo has promoted voter fraud conspiracy theories, along with a claim that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol may have been staged. He recently posed for a picture with Trump in Florida, writing that “New Jersey 2021 can be a redo of 2016.”
Rizzo’s supporters include former Ocean County GOP chairman George Gilmore, who was pardoned by Trump earlier this year, and NJ 101.5’s Bill Spadea.
- Professional background: Mayor of Franklin Township (2004-2014), Somerset County Freeholder (two terms) and certified public accountant
- Slogan: “Believe in better”
- Platform: Small business incentives, affordable health insurance, stabilizing taxes and guiding New Jersey out of the coronavirus public health crisis
Levine has described himself as fiscally conservative but not ideologically. And while he backed some of the former president’s policies, Levine does not consider himself a die-hard supporter of Trump.