NJ Weedman, Ciattarelli targeted by Democrats in aggressive start in gubernatorial race

Democrats are getting off to an aggressive start on behalf of Gov. Phil Murphy in the all-new general election fall for Governor of New Jersey.

Last week’s opening salutes included action against an expected target, Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, and another with no chance of beating Murphy, Edward Forchion, a marijuana legalization advocate known as ” NJ Weedman “.

It all comes as Murphy kicks off his re-election campaign with a 26-point lead over Ciattarelli, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released just before the June 8 primary.

First, the challenge to NJ Weedman:

Forchion submitted his candidacy as an independent in the November 2 gubernatorial race, but his plans changed after the Democratic State Committee filed a challenge in court over whether his nomination petitions were valid.

In a Zoom on the Issue hearing on Tuesday, Forchion announced he was dropping his offer and would run a campaign in writing instead.

“I cannot compete with the power of the Democratic Party,” said the 56-year-old Pemberton resident. tell the judge. “I’m about to smoke weed.”

Murphy campaigned in 2017 to legalize marijuana in New Jersey. Efforts to pass a law along these lines have failed the state legislature a few times, but state voters approved the legal weed last November.

Forchion criticized the way Murphy handled the pot, saying his policies on the issue haven’t gone far enough, especially when it comes to helping people of color.

He filed his petition with 836 signatures under the Legalize Marihuana party and the slogan “#HOMEGROW $ ALL”. You need 800 signatures to vote.

Forchion had already been a candidate for governor in 2005, with 9,136 votes – just 0.4% of the vote – in a race won by Democrat Jon Corzine.

Three third party candidates Also running as candidates: Gregg Melee of the Libertarian Party, and Madelyn Hoffman of the Green Party, and Joanne Kuniansky of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

Then the movement against the Ciattarelli campaign:

The Democratic State Committee tabled on Thursday a complaint with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, the state’s campaign finance oversight body, accusing the Republican candidate of breaking campaign finance law by starting to collect campaign finance funds for general elections before the end of the primaries.

Ciattarelli’s campaign quickly denied this claim.

Democrats are calling on ELEC to investigate the allegation and to halt the granting of matching public funds to Ciattarelli, which would be a setback for the former state lawmaker.

ELEC declined to comment.

Under the commission’s rules, campaigns participating in the New Jersey Matching Fund program – like Ciattarelli and Murphy are – cannot use any primary campaign money to solicit donations for the general election and cannot solicit any donations. for the general elections before the day after the primaries.

In its complaint, the Democratic State Committee said Republicans began announcing a June 23 fundraising event for Ciattarelli in Little Falls as early as May 27, ahead of the June 8 primary election. The ad called for $ 2,500 in contributions.

Democrats said donors who contributed to this event had to pay a fee on the platform and that those fees are expenses. The same applies to funds paid to the restaurant where the event is to take place, according to the complaint.

“Jack Ciattarelli has been caught in the act of trying to fundraise for his campaign in violation of laws that protect the taxpayer-funded Governors Matching Fund program,” said Saily Avelenda, executive director of the Committee. Democratic state.

Under the state matching fund program, candidates for governor are entitled to $ 2 of taxpayer money for every $ 1 they receive above a certain threshold and up to to $ 10.5 million in the general election. The ELEC announced this week that Ciatarelli has already qualified for the legislative elections.

Stami Williams, Ciattarelli’s campaign spokesperson, said in a statement that the campaign received its first contributions to the Little Falls event on June 16 – “well after the primary and therefore came at no cost to the pre-primary “.

Such charges have been leveled in previous campaigns. Republicans said Democratic Gov. Jim Florio used the main money for a general election expense in 1993. The charges made headlines and resulted in a fine against Florio’s campaign in a close race won by Republican Christie Whitman.

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Brent Johnson can be reached at [email protected].

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