Jack Ciattarelli Takes on Gov. Phil Murphy Tonight


It’s my favorite time of the year: the September before an election. September has generally marked the beginning of the campaign season, filled with cut-throat attack ads and spirited debates. And guess what? Tonight is the first gubernatorial debate! You see, New Jersey has an important decision to make this November 2nd—whether we want four more years of Governor Phil Murphy’s progressive and high government spending agenda, or a return to a fiscally conservative administration, this time under Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman from South Jersey. 


Just a bit of context here. As we know, Democrat Governor Murphy was elected in November of 2017, and so his four year term has come to an end. Murphy says he’s counting on the legislative change he brought to New Jersey to give him the victory, like his reduction of gun ownership, climate change initiatives, and leadership through the worst public health crisis in America (frankly, even the world). He’s always maintained a net positive (above 50%) approval rating. Republican Jack Ciattarelli, on the other hand, says he has a bold plan to fix our state from the inside out: lowering property taxes, reforming and simplifying the tax code, supporting and funding law enforcement, and building a more open economy that promotes growth, among other things. On the pandemic, Ciattarelli has proposed a strategy of minimal government interference in decisions like mask and vaccine mandates, while Murphy has consistently expressed his support for mask mandates, citing that it is the most effective way to end this nightmare. 


So you think that this is a normal, regularly scheduled election. Who even cares? We all know it’s impossible for a Republican to win in New Jersey. But folks, there’s a lot at stake here!


Hear this: a Democrat Governor has not been re-elected to the governorship in decades. Yes, decades. So is it possible that Ciattarelli could deliver a victory on the 2nd? Maybe, considering that Chris Christie won in 2009 by less than 100,000 votes, and Tom Kean Sr. later won by a 1,797 vote margin. 


There’s no easier way to say it: Jack’s the underdog in this race. It’s possible that when I mentioned the name Jack Ciattarelli, you were scratching your head and thinking to yourself, Who’s that? Jack’s name recognition has been the number one issue for Jersey Republicans during this race. He’s also been attacked for veering off to the right after winning the primary and still faces the challenge of uniting a deeply divided state GOP. For Murphy, one slight issue might be some of his rhetoric on taxes, which the Ciattarelli campaign has been quick to pounce on. A recent attack ad by Jack showed Murphy claiming “If you’re a one issue voter, and taxes are your issue, then New Jersey is not your state!” Murphy has been notorious for raising the state revenue not just by raising property taxes, but also sales, income, and gas taxes, which Ciattarelli has argued has made New Jersey less competitive relative to other states. Murphy, however, claims that the money has been properly allocated in support of social welfare programs.


In pre-debate polling data that was released by ABC, 41% believe the pandemic to be the most pressing issue, 32% for property taxes, and 15% for the economy and cost of living. This might be slightly positive news for Ciattarelli, who has consistently led Murphy on the issue of taxes at 31% (C) to 30% (M). 


Do we know for sure that Governor Murphy will be re-elected in deep-blue and progressive New Jersey? Not at all. There’s a lot that still has to play out, starting with the debate from 7 to 8 PM tonight on ABC or News12NJ! Tune in to gain the knowledge you (or your parents, since you can’t vote) need to make an informed decision this November!