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Saturday June 15th

Meet the frontrunners to become New Jersey’s next governor

<p><em>As Murphy&#x27;s departure looms, several potential frontrunners have emerged in the race for the gubernatorial election, including Rep. Mikie Sherrill, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Newark mayor Ras Baraka (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/“</em><a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jack_Ciattarelli_December_2021.jpg" target=""><em>Jack Ciattarelli December 2021</em></a><em>” by Nfeld. December 15, 2021). </em></p>

As Murphy's departure looms, several potential frontrunners have emerged in the race for the gubernatorial election, including Rep. Mikie Sherrill, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Newark mayor Ras Baraka (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/“Jack Ciattarelli December 2021” by Nfeld. December 15, 2021). 

By Shaim Akhtar
Staff Writer

New Jersey's Democratic Governor Phil Murphy is nearing the end of his term in 2026 and will not be eligible to run again due to the state's two consecutive term limit for governors. As Murphy's departure looms, several potential frontrunners have emerged in the race for the gubernatorial election, including Rep. Mikie Sherrill, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Newark mayor Ras Baraka and Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop.

In Feb. 2023, Fairleigh Dickinson University conducted an election poll on the governor’s race. The results indicated that among the 59% of general residents who recognized Ciattarelli, the former Assemblyman had a favorability rating of 22%. Furthermore, Baraka, recognized by 50% of general residents, and Sherrill, recognized by 36%, were tied with a 17% favorability rating among residents who recognized the candidates. While Fulop was recognized by 32% of general residents in the poll and has a favorability rating of 11% among residents who recognized him. This poll, however, does not represent favorability among all N.J. residents because candidates have different percentages of recognition, causing the favorability percentages in the survey to be skewed when reflecting the voting population of the state. 

Yet, the most recognized potential candidate in the race was N.J.’s First Lady, Tammy Murphy, with approximately 65% recognition, compared to second place, Ciattarelli, with 59%. Recently, The Signal profiled the First Lady, as she is rumored to be a frontrunner for congressional senate after corruption allegations against Sen. Bob Menendez came to light, occurring months after the poll was released. Whether Murphy runs for governor or senate is a question that will be answered in the coming months, as the political landscape in the state has taken a significant turn with two important government seats up for primaries and elections soon.

Aside from Murphy, some notable New Jersey politicians have already denied their intention of running for governor, including Senator Cory Booker

Following the 2021 gubernatorial elections, in which Ciattarelli lost by a narrow margin of about two points against Phil Murphy’s reelection, Ciattarelli released a statement reaffirming his intentions for the 2025 elections, stating, "That's exactly my plan, I will be running for governor."

While there has been no official statement regarding Sherrill’s rumored gubernatorial bid, sources have revealed that Sherrill is currently focused on winning reelection for her House seat and plans to announce the gubernatorial campaign at the end of next year, as reported by the New Jersey Globe.

Similarly, Baraka has also not released a statement on his gubernatorial bid, yet is expected to make an important announcement soon, likely regarding his gubernatorial bid, as reported by a close source to Politico.

Fulup, on the other hand, launched his bid to become governor a few months ago in a statement, stating, “From my time serving as a U.S. Marine to leading Jersey City as Mayor, my career has always been guided by a strong desire to take on difficult challenges and find solutions that help improve peoples’ lives. Now I’m running for Governor to bring those same values to Trenton.”

In terms of political experience, the candidates have diverse and varied backgrounds in New Jersey and beyond.

Ciattarelli, who grew up in Raritan, earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Master of Business Administration in Finance from Seton Hall University. Completing his education, he opened medical publishing companies in Old Bridge and Somerville, and was elected as the President of the Raritan Borough Council. After the council term ended, Ciattareli became an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University and was later elected as the County Commissioner for Somerset County. In 2011, he won the state legislature elections as a State Assemblyman, serving for seven years. A decade later, Ciattarelli won the Republican primary for New Jersey's governor due to his stance on lower property taxes and less stringent Covid-19 policies, yet lost the general election by a margin of about two points.

Sherrill, in contrast, grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Science from the United States Naval Academy, a Master of Science in Global History from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University. Before law school, Sherrill served in the Navy for a decade, being deployed in Europe and the Middle East as a helicopter pilot, flag aide and Russian policy officer. After leaving the Navy, Sherrill graduated from law school and worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey as an Outreach and Re-entry Coordinator. In 2019, Sherrill was elected to the House of Representatives for New Jersey’s eleventh congressional district, due to her stances on affordable healthcare, college tuition and housing. 

Consequently, Fulup grew up in Edison and earned a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University, a Master of Business Administration from New York University and Masters of Public Administration from Columbia University. After college, Fulup was employed in various financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Leaving the financial world, Fulop served in the Marines Corps as the rank of Corporal and in 6th Engineer Support Battalion after experiencing the tragic events of 9/11. Upon returning home in 2006 from deployments in the Middle East, Fulup was elected as city council member in Jersey City and served for eight years. Seven years later, Fulop won the Jersey City mayoral elections, advocating for increased affordable housing, and economic and police reforms. 

Lastly, Baraka grew up in Newark and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Education Supervision from Saint Peter’s University. After completing his education, Baraka served as an English and history teacher and an editor for the novel, In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers. In 2005, Baraka was elected as Council Member At-Large in Newark and later became the principal of Newark’s Central High School. Subsequently, in 2010, Baraka was reelected as a Council Member in Newark, representing the South Ward area of the city. Four years later, Baraka was elected as Newark’s mayor on the platform of better public school education, economic growth and criminal justice reform. 

The upcoming gubernatorial election in 2025 is riddled with multiple challengers who have not yet announced their bids potentially influencing the election. Nevertheless, change is on the horizon for New Jersey as Murphy will not be able to run for governor, leading potential candidates to present their vision for the future direction of the state in order to sway constituents.




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