The 2021 elections produced the second most expensive gubernatorial race in state history accounting for inflation, according to a campaign finance report issued Nov. 24.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli combined to spend nearly $49 million in the primary and general elections, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission said in the report. Outside groups spent another $41.7 million, the most of any governor’s race, the NJELEC found, for total expenditures of $90.6 million.
“We have been predicting for more than a decade that independent special interest groups that spend separately from candidates or parties have become a major force in New Jersey elections,” NJELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said in a statement. “The trend in gubernatorial elections offers perhaps the best evidence yet.
On an inflation-adjusted basis, the costliest election was in 2005, when Democrat Jon Corzine defeated Republican Doug Forrester. The two candidates spent a combined $87.7 million, while outside groups spent just $407,748. In 2021 dollars, the race cost more than $124.8 million.
Meanwhile the third most expensive race was in 2009, when Republican Chris Christie unseated Corzine. That race cost nearly $70.2 million – $90.4 in today’s dollars – and included $56.1 million in spending from the two candidates along with $14 million from outside groups.
Murphy’s first race, in which he defeated then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in 2017, was the fourth costliest race, at $89.2 million when adjusted for inflation. The $24.5 million of outside spending on the race was a record, Brindle noted.
For the general election, Murphy raised $16.7 million and spent nearly $16.4 million, while Ciattarelli raised $16.3 million and spent more than $15.8 million.
The Democratic Governors Association backed Murphy by sending $2.5 million to the super PAC Our NJ, which spent $8.7 million on the race, and $2.5 million to another group, the Committee to Build the Economy.
Garden State Forward, the super PAC for the state’s largest teacher’s union, the New Jersey Education Association, spent $8.7 million in support of Murphy’s campaign. Two other groups – the carpenter’s group Working for Working Americans and the Carpenter’s Action – gave a combined $2.5 million to Our NJ.
The Republican Governors Association spent $3.8 million in support of Ciattarelli, according to NJELEC.
Murphy’s margin of victory in 2o21 was just 3 percentage points, closer than polls has suggested.