Four candidates in New Jersey’s GOP gubernatorial primary illustrate how former President Donald Trump’s influence has divided the Republican Party. Republicans have four choices on the ballot when they head to the polls on June 8 for the state’s primary election: Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Phil Rizzo and Hirsh Singh.
Ciattarelli and Singh are said to be leading the pack but New Jersey Woman for Trump founder Tracey Lore has endorsed Phil Rizzo, the MAGA candidate who says he is most like Trump himself.
“I am convinced Phil Rizzo is the best candidate to advance a Pro-Trump MAGA style agenda in New Jersey. I am excited to endorse him for governor,” said Lore.
New Jersey voters have elected five GOP governors since 1947 (one more Republican, Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, filled the unexpired term of Gov. Christine Whitman in 2001), the last being Gov. Chris Christie, who left office after completing his second term in 2018. During the same time period the state’s residents have elected seven Democratic governors (one additional Democrat, Gov. Richard Codey, completed the unexpired term of Gov. James McGreevey in 2004).
The election will operate primarily in-person after most residents voted by mail in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Polls will be open from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Information on polling locations, ballot drop boxes and voting by mail in each county can be found on the New Jersey Division of Elections website.
A native and resident of Somerset County in Central Jersey, Ciattarelli served on the Raritan Borough Council, as a Somerset County freeholder and in the New Jersey General Assembly.
Ciattarelli served on the Financial Institutions and Insurance and the Regulated Professions committees during his time in the Assembly. He was assistant minority whip in the Assembly from 2014-2018.
He finished second in the 2017 New Jersey GOP gubernatorial primary on issues such as school funding reform, tax reform and employee benefits reform in his first campaign for governor. This time, Ciattarelli is touting his business experience and economic issues, like reinvigorating the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and appealling to swing voters.
Ciattarelli has been endorsed by all 21 Republican county organizations and most current and former GOP elected officials.
Trenton outsider Brian Levine was a councilman and mayor Franklin Township and freeholder in Somerset County.
Rizzo said that he wants to cut spending and taxes to balance the state budget and he has also called for measures that would reduce participation in elections among the poor, very young or old, and minority groups, by purging voter rolls and creating voter ID cards.
Hirsh Singh is the only gubernatorial candidate with ties to South Jersey political boss George Norcross, but he has no real professional or political experience and he has waged several Republican campaigns for elected office, relying on his family’s wealth, which is derived from an engineering and security firm that has lucrative government contracts.