Businessman and former New Jersey General Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli won the New Jersey GOP primary race on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Ciattarelli will challenge incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy.
Murphy, who won the Democratic primary after running unopposed, has been seeking re-election as governor of New Jersey since the 1970s.
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Ciattarelli had topped the party establishment’s approvals and led the polls ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
But Ciattarelli is facing opposition from staunch Trump supporters for his criticism of the former president during the 2016 campaign, something his opponents counted on.
Engineer Hirsh Singh, former Franklin Mayor Brian Levine and far-right pastor Phil Rizzo have each relied on the political influence that Donald Trump’s popularity brings among GOP voters.
Although President Biden won over 60% of the state’s vote in the 2020 presidential election, candidates like Rizzo have emphasized their support for Trump.
In a May Twitter post, the conservative pastor posted a photo of himself with Trump in Florida with the caption: “New Jersey 2021 may be a revival of 2016.”
Singh also ran over his support for the ex-president, calling Trump “the greatest president of my life,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
But Ciattarelli said he wanted to focus his campaign on issues a little closer to home.
“To beat Phil Murphy, we have to nominate the strongest candidate,” Ciattarelli said in a video posted to Twitter on the eve of the Republican primary elections. “I am the only candidate with the capacity to raise funds to defeat Phil Murphy and his extremist agenda.”
All of the candidates were candid about Murphy’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and what they saw as overly strict regulations.
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Murphy lifted social distancing and mask warrants in the run-up to Memorial Day weekend, but New Jersey voters were encouraged to wear face covers as they went to the polls on Tuesday, according to one. local media.
Ciattarelli had been favorite to win the Republican nomination.
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