TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy’s re-election campaign has collected more contributions and has more money on hand than Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, who had spent more of his war chest with a month until Election Day, according to campaign finance reports.

The Election Law Enforcement Commission analysis of campaign spending also finds Murphy the bigger beneficiary of spending on the race by independent political action committees, who by one measure spent nearly as much on the election through early October as the candidates themselves.

“Once again, gubernatorial elections are being held this year only in New Jersey and Virginia. So, the Garden State is a major draw for these national political groups,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director. “During the last decade, these and other independent committees have become a major force in federal, state and local campaigns.”

The biggest outside group has been the New Jersey Education Association, which spent $5 million through its super PAC, Garden State Forward. That included $2.5 million to Our NJ, a group set up for the race by the Democratic Governors Association, and $2.5 million to Committee to Build the Economy, a labor PAC.

Murphy with $7.3M, Ciattarelli with $1.2M

According to the 29-day pre-election campaign finance report, which covered activity through Oct. 4, Murphy had $7.3 million in cash on hand compared with $1.2 million for Ciattarelli.

Ciattarelli had spent over $8 million on media and advertising, compared with Murphy’s $3 million. While Ciattarelli started advertising sooner in an effort to introduce himself to voters, some of the advertising time he purchased may not yet have aired.

Overall, Ciattarelli had raised $10.1 million, including public matching funds, and spent $8.9 million. As of Oct. 8, he had qualified for over $7.4 million in $2-for-$1 matching funds, which is 71% of the full $10.5 million candidates can receive.

His spending included $3.7 million on cable TV ads, $1.9 million on Internet ads, $579,000 on signs and billboards, $560,000 on network TV and $464,000 on radio. It also included more than $620,000 labeled as mixed media, so it is difficult to say how that was allocated.

Murphy had raised $13 million, including public funding, and spent $5.7 million. As of Oct. 8, he has qualified for almost $9.5 million in matching funds, which is 90% of the maximum allowed in this race. His spending included $1.2 million for cable TV ads, $1.15 million on network TV ads, $205,000 for online ads and $94,000 on signs and billboards.

Outside spending

Independent committees had spent $13.1 million on the general election – though that includes some double-counting, as the donations from the NJEA’s Garden State Forward and the Democratic Governors Association are then spent by the PACs that got the cash.

A PAC supporting Ciattarelli called Fix NJ Now has raised almost $295,000 for the race and spent about $71,000 as of early October.

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Add in the $16.7 million that candidates had spent on the primary and $13.4 million spent by outside groups and total campaign spending this cycle was approaching $57.9 million. That compares with $52.9 million spent through the same point of the campaign four years ago.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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