Ciattarelli says he’ll fix ‘broken’ New Jersey as next governor
TRENTON – With the deepest campaign coffers and longest traditional political resume in the field, Jack Ciattarelli hopes to capture the political prize that eluded him four years ago – the Republican nomination for governor.
Ciattarelli, 59, is a Hillsborough resident with four children in their 20s and has founded medical publishing companies. His family has lived in the state for nearly 100 years and he emphasizes that he was born and raised and attended public schools and Seton Hall University in the state.
“As a lifelong New Jerseyan and an MBA/CPA and someone who served at every level of government here in New Jersey, I think I bring a very unique resume and perspective to the task of serving as governor,” Ciattarelli said.
After college, Ciattarelli said, he was recruited by the mayor of his hometown Raritan Borough to run for local office. He served two terms on the council from 1990 to 1995, then returned to politics in 2006 and won election to the Somerset County freeholder board.
He moved from county to state government by winning election to the state Assembly in 2011. He served three terms in the 16th District then opted to run for governor, finishing second to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in the 2017 primary with 31% of the vote in a five-candidate field.
“I’ve always been compelled by Abraham Lincoln, and that’s why I’m a registered Republican,” Ciattarelli said. “I believe in the principles of the Republican Party in terms of empowering individuals with liberty and keeping government small and taxes low.”
New Jersey 101.5 is hosting the first gubernatorial primary debate between the Republican candidates. The program will air live on 101.5 and at Facebook.com/nj1015 starting at 7 p.m. on May 25. This week, New Jersey 101.5 is profiling all four candidates seeking the Republican nomination next month.
- Brian Levine: Former mayor, CPA seeks to fix state finances
- Philip Rizzo: Pastor and home-builder finds his next project: Being NJ governor
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Ciattarelli said that in six of the seven races that he won, Democrats outnumbered Republicans.
Ciattarelli said none of the other candidates seeking the gubernatorial nomination have his background, academic credentials or government experience and haven’t “put forth a specific plan on how to address the crises that plague our state fiscally and economically – namely, the property tax crisis, the business climate crisis and the public pension crisis.”
“A great many of us do love this state. But we also know it’s broken in a number of ways," he said.
On property taxes, Ciattarelli said the school-aid formula needs to be made flatter and more equitable to address school taxes.
“We also need a more regional approach to providing local government services. There certainly is cost inefficiency associated with having 565 towns and 600 school districts,” he said. “As governor I will not force, but I will certainly advocate for a regionalized approach to providing local government services.”
He said he “learned the hard way” as freeholder that consolidations are difficult, when he suggested regionalizing 19 police departments into one regional force.
“We love home rule in New Jersey. But you can’t love home rule and hate property taxes at the same time. Something’s got to give,” Ciattarelli said. “And as governor I will certainly advocate for what needs to be done. I won’t force it, but I will advocate for it.”
To address pensions, Ciattarelli said new public workers need to go into a defined contribution retirement plan, like a 401(k). He also said that through technology upgrades, the number of state workers can be reduced.
To address the business climate, Ciattarelli said the state must adopt Delaware’s bylaws for corporate governance. He supports a lower corporate tax rate – such as cutting it in half over five years, as he’d proposed in the 2017 campaign – and making the first $50,000 of business income tax free.
“As governor, my focus will be on making New Jersey a much more dynamic place to do business and a place where people want to open their own business,” he said.
Ciattarelli is one of four Republicans on the ballot and, given his runner-up performance in 2017, has generally been seen as the front-runner. He refers to himself as a “common-sense conservative” but is being attacked from the right in the campaign by rivals Philip Rizzo and Hirsh Singh.
“As the nominee, my job is to unify the party,” Ciattarelli said. “And there’s one thing that all 1.4 million Republicans agree on – and that’s not easy to accomplish, but there is one thing we all agree on. And that’s that Phil Murphy shouldn’t have a second term.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.