Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican candidate for governor of New Jersey, plans to concede his narrow loss to incumbent Phil Murphy on Friday, two sources familiar with his plans said to POLITICO.
Ciattarelli scheduled a press conference at 1 p.m. in his hometown of Raritan on Friday “to address New Jersey residents about his campaign,” according to a press release.
Ciattarelli trails Murphy by 2.9 percent — or nearly 74,000 votes — according to the Associated Press. Murphy, a Democrat, was considered the front-runner for re-election and was ahead in the high single numbers in recent public opinion polls.
A former three-term member of the House of Representatives, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican governor’s nomination in 2017, Ciattarelli began his campaign nearly two years ago. By running with former state Senator Dianne Allen as deputy governor, he focused so heavily on taxes and business closures that he attributed to Murphy’s pandemic executive orders, while Murphy sought to link Citarelli with former President Donald Trump.
Ciattarelli’s ads and campaign speech frequently appeared in Murphy’s ad telling the audience that “if you’re a voter for one cause and taxes are your problem…we’re probably not in your state.” New Jersey real estate taxes are consistently ranked among the highest in the country. Ciattarelli campaigned to cut it—something no New Jersey governor, Republican or Democrat, has been able to do—as well as reforming the state’s school funding formula.
Murphy was also accused of weakening the local police by signing a law prohibiting them from searching minors suspected of possessing alcohol or cannabis.
While Ciattarelli has embraced some culture war issues — he attended a school board meeting in the Republican town of Toms River to protest the mask mandates — he avoided campaigning with most national Republican figures and sought to play down the electoral conspiracy theories promoted by Trump, telling Republicans So. The elections are “not rigged here.”
Murphy’s campaign had criticized Ciattarelli for not conceding early, calling it an “assault on the integrity of our elections.” However, Ciattarelli’s campaign officials said, they want to see if they can get a 1% margin they think will guarantee a recount. .
Despite Ciattarelli’s loss, Republicans gained two seats in the New Jersey state Senate, including one held by Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester). They also won as many as six seats in the assembly.
Ciattarelli’s closer-than-expected loss in a blue state in recent years has thrust more Democrats into making him a potential future contender for a future statewide position.