Voters in the Garden State will decide their candidates for the fall election in the race for governor and in every seat in the Democrat-led state Legislature.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy faces no opponent today, but four Republicans are competing for the opportunity to run against him in November.
Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Unlike last year when the coronavirus outbreak led to mostly mail-in voting, voters can cast ballots in person at their usual polling places.
The primary is open only to registered Democrats and Republicans, though unaffiliated voters can opt to pick a party Tuesday and cast a ballot.
New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states picking governors this year.
On the GOP side, Jack Ciattarelli, a former Assembly member and small business founder, has emerged as the front-runner.
He has the most cash, qualified for public matching funds and carries the support from county party leaders, which means he’ll have favorable ballot positions.
He’s trained his attacks on Murphy over taxes and his handling of COVID-19.
But Ciatterelli is facing challengers to his right from a pair of vocal supporters of former President Donald Trump. Hudson County pastor and former real estate developer Phil Rizzo and Atlantic County engineer Hirsh Singh are each casting themselves as Trump’s man in New Jersey. Rizzo is new to politics, but Singh has run in and lost elections before, including the Republican gubernatorial primary four years ago.
Murphy’s handling of the pandemic has been a galvanizing issue for the GOP, though, providing them with a common opponent.
Also on the ballot is Brian Levine, a former Somerset County official, who is running in part on keeping businesses from leaving the state. Levine has told election law enforcement officials that he plans to raise less than $5,800, a fraction of the more roughly $6.9 million Ciattarelli has raised.
Democrats have seen their registration advantage over Republicans climb to more than 1 million. Murphy has gotten good grades from voters for his handling of the pandemic, according to public surveys.
Nevertheless, Republicans have hammered him for keeping mask and distancing mandates in place for what they have said is too long and for more than 8,000 deaths at long-term care facilities.
Murphy has also delivered on several key campaign promises that were popular, especially among Democratic voters like hiking taxes on millionaires; boosting funding to Planned Parenthood, signing legislation to legalize recreational marijuana and clear cannabis-related criminal records and increasing funding for the public pension and school aid.
A Democrat hasn’t won reelection in New Jersey in more than four decades, while Republicans in recent decades – Chris Christie and Tom Kean Sr. – have.
Also on the ballot Tuesday were the state’s Assembly and state Senate seats, though many lawmakers didn’t face challenges.
Democrats hold a 52-28 majority in the Assembly and a 25-15 advantage in the Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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