NJ Gov Race: Murphy Passes $20M in Spending

Phil Murphy. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Phil Murphy has spent $20.1 million on his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor, according to a new report by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Murphy’s spending was 10 times that of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a candidate for the Republican nomination and the second-highest spender in the primary race.

The latest ELEC report ran through May 23, which means total spending for the June 6 primaries could still rise by millions more dollars. Candidates on both sides, including Murphy, have been unloading a series of expensive TV ads this week, which would drive up the total.

The level of spending seen so far could make this year’s gubernatorial primaries the most expensive in New Jersey history, ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said. Total spending for all candidates is at $28 million, and outside groups weighing in on the candidates have spent another $8.8 million, he said.

“If you combine candidate and independent spending, this year’s primary already has cost nearly $37 million,” Brindle said. “That tops all but two previous gubernatorial primary campaigns.”

A comparison of all the campaigns through May 23. New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission

A former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany, Murphy had raised $21.2 million — $16.9 million of which has come from his own bank account — and spent $20.1 million as of May 23. Unlike the other major candidates, Murphy is not participating in the state’s public financing program that gives candidates $2 in matching funds for every $1 raised. Spending for candidates who participate is capped at $6.4 million.

Among the candidates accepting matching funds, Guadagno had raised $2.9 million and spent $2 million, Democrat Jim Johnson had raised $2.6 million and spent $1.8 million, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) had raised $1.7 million and spent $1.6 million, and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerset) had raised $1.6 million and spent $1.4 million.

Hirsh Singh, a Republican candidate funded largely by a $950,000 loan from his father, had raised about $50,000 on top of that and spent nearly $615,000.

Update (4:23 p.m.): A spokesman for Murphy said Wednesday that if he wins the primary, he would cap spending in the general election at $13.8 million and apply for public matching funds. This story has been updated to reflect that Murphy’s self-spending in the primary race is at $16.9 million, according to ELEC data and a complaint filed by Democrat Jim Johnson, not $15.1 million as previously stated.