Right, I am New Jersey, Gov. Murphy says to Republican challenger Ciattarelli

right, I am New Jersey, Gov. Murphy says to Republican challenger Ciattarelli. Are you really not a New Jerseyan if you weren’t born and raised here? That’s one of the early questions to come out of the newly minted governor’s race between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.

Shortly after winning Tuesday’s four-way primary for the GOP nomination to face Murphy — who won the Democratic nomination unopposed — Ciattarelli labeled Massachusetts-bred Murphy as “not New Jersey” in his victory speech.

Murphy, who moved to Middletown with his wife more than 20 years ago, took issue with that.

“I would just ask anybody who wonders about where somebody was born, ask them if they had any say over where they were born,” the governor said when asked about Ciattarelli’s comments during his latest coronavirus briefing in Trenton on Wednesday. “And then let me say this: My wife and I came to New Jersey to raise our four kids. That was a volitional decision that we took. Probably the best decision of our lives.”

Ciattarelli on Tuesday also argued that Murphy, an avowed progressive Democrat, has made New Jersey less affordable and is too left-leaning for the state.

But his speech garnered the most attention for taking aim at Murphy’s geographical background — which includes a degree from Harvard, years of rooting for the Boston Red Sox, and decades working overseas as a former Wall Street executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany.

“Here’s Phil Murphy’s problem: He wasn’t raised here, never went to school here, never owned a business here,” said Ciattarelli, a lifelong Somerset County resident and former accountant. “He’s somebody else. I’m you. I mean, have you seen this guy eat pizza?”

“He’s not New Jersey,” Ciattarelli added.

He also alluded to how Murphy told NJ Advance Media on the eve of taking office in 2018 that he wanted to remold New Jersey in the image of left-leaning California.

“This out-of-touch governor has the audacity and the arrogance to say he wants to make New Jersey the California of the East Coast,” Ciattarelli said. “Are you kidding me? Who says that? We’re New Jersey, and if that’s what Phil Murphy wants, then he should move to California.”

“Here’s what I want, here’s what you want, here’s what New Jersey wants: Fix the damn state,” Ciattarelli added. “I’m here to fix New Jersey.”

Murphy on Wednesday took aim at Ciattarelli’s resume — which includes stints as a Raritan Borough councilman, Somerset County freeholder, and a member of the Assembly from 2011-18.

”He was in public service as an elected official during the time the property tax crisis went out of control,” Murphy said. “We inherited the mess his colleagues created. … We’re trying to fix the stuff that he and others broke.”

Ciattarelli faces an uphill battle against Murphy in the Nov. 2 general election. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll published Tuesday found Murphy leading Ciattarelli by 26 percentage points, while 52% of New Jersey voters don’t know who Ciattarelli is. Democrats hold a huge voter advantage over Republicans, too.

No Democrat has been re-elected governor since Brendan Byrne in 1977, though voters went for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in consecutive elections in 2001 and 2005.

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