Jack Ciattarelli wins NJ’s Republican primary for governor, beating Trump boosters

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The Republican establishment defeats Trumpism in a key New Jersey contest.

Former New Jersey Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli defeated rival Republicans, who claimed the ex-president’s mantle, to win the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday.

Ciattarelli will now face Democratic incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy — who won an uncontested primary race — in November’s general election.

The GOP nominee defeated three challengers — two of them vocal Trump supporters — on the strength of his support from the Garden State’s party’s establishment, which delivered him prime ballot positioning. Ciattarelli announced his plans to challenge Murphy three years ago.

Hirsh Singh, an engineer from Atlantic County and Phil Rizzo, a Hudson County pastor and former real estate developer, both appealed to Trump supporters to win the party’s nod in the blue state.

Ciattarelli downplayed the rival’s claims that he was a “never-Trumper,” saying he evolved from his original criticism of the one-term president, and supported him in 2020.

“A whole lot of us said a whole lot of things,” he said during an interview on WPMG. “He earned my faith and confidence in the sense that his policies worked for the nation.”

FILE - New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy talks to reporters after voting in Red Bank, N.J., Tuesday, June 8, 2021. New Jersey voters will decide Tuesday, June 8, 2021 who their candidates will be in the fall election for governor and in every seat in the Democrat-led state Legislature.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy talks to reporters after voting in Red Bank on June 8, 2021.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Ciattarelli’s attacks were largely focused on the current head of Trenton’s statehouse, as he blasted Murphy on his handling of COVID-19 and property taxes.

He raised $7 million in the race, a figure unsurpassed by only Murphy.

Ciattarelli, a medical publisher and CPA, represented parts of Hunterdon County in the Assembly from 2011 to 2018.

“I think the contrast in this general election will be as stark as there has ever been,” Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, said Tuesday night.

“We can either keep New Jersey moving forward or go backward. It’s a choice between standing for higher wages or going back to an economy that only worked for the wealthy and well-connected,” Murphy said in a statement, referencing his $15-an-hour minimum wage and tax hikes for the wealthy.

With AP wires

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