PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Voters in New Jersey head to the polls Tuesday for the Garden State’s primary election. The big race is for governor, where four Republicans are running to try to challenge Gov. Phil Murphy.
The challengers include former General Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli, former Franklin Township Mayor Brian Levine, pastor Philip Rizzo and engineer Hirsh Singh.READ MORE: Report: Ben Simmons Turns Away Meeting With Sixers Teammates
The governor is running unopposed on the Democratic side as he tries to win a second term.
The polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
All voters are asked to wear a face covering and observe appropriate social distancing.
DECISION DAY FOR GOP
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 ran unsuccessfully four years ago as a strong critic of Gov. Chris Christie, losing the primary to then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. He was tepid about Trump four years ago.
But his focus on attacking Murphy, over supporting the former president, drew a pair of Trump defenders into the race. Hudson County pastor and former real estate developer Rizzo and Atlantic County engineer 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.READ MORE: Eagles Activate Zach Ertz Off COVID-19 List
Also on the ballot is 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.
Murphy has no Democratic opposition on the ballot. The primary comes at a high water mark for Democrats, who have seen their registration advantage over Republicans climb to more than 1 million. He also 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: raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year; 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.
Democratic control the Legislature is on the ballot this, fall, but in Tuesday’s primary a handful of intraparty races are grabbing attention. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s retirement in Bergen County’s 37th District has sparked a Democratic primary battle between her two Assembly running mates: Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle.
In southern New Jersey, Republican Sen. Chris Brown’s decision not to run for reelection has led to a primary between the county party-backed Vince Polistina and Seth Grossman, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for Congress against as an outspoken backer of Trump.MORE NEWS: 2 Off-Duty Philadelphia Police Officers Robbed At Gunpoint In Oxford Circle
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)