- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey voters flipping on their TVs this weekend will be barraged with political ads ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican primaries.

Half a dozen candidates have spent millions to get on the broadcast and cable in the expensive New York and Philadelphia TV markets. Democratic front-runner Phil Murphy’s closing ad promises he will check Republican President Donald Trump. His opponents attack Murphy for his career on Wall Street.

Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is re-introducing herself to voters but leaving out her time in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. She also attacks her top opponent, suggesting Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli would raise taxes. Ciattarelli says in his ad that he’s had enough of Christie-Guadagno.

Among them, the 11 candidates have about $3.5 million cash on hand left.

A closer look at the ads:

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THE DEMOCRATS

JIM JOHNSON

TITLE: “Yours”

THEME: “I’ll be nobody’s governor but yours.”

LENGTH: 30 seconds

AIRING: Spokeswoman Olivia Bercow says the ad is being run in the New York and Philadelphia media markets as part of a “seven-figure broadcast and cable buy.”

KEY CLAIM: “As a Goldman Sachs president, Phil Murphy made his fortune in a rigged system. Now the Jersey machine has lined up with Murphy and his millions.” Johnson then enters the screen and says “leaders should stand up for the people and not for the political machine.”

ANALYSIS: The ad contrasts attacks on Goldman Sachs and Murphy’s time there with Johnson’s biography in an attempt to remind voters of Murphy’s connections to the Wall Street giant. The ad starts with dark foreboding music as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders attacks the firm during a New Hampshire Democratic debate against Hillary Clinton in February 2016. The voiceover then turns to Murphy’s career there and attack on his donations to New Jersey’s Democratic county party system. While Sanders charges that Goldman Sachs is “one of those companies whose illegal activity helped destroy our economy,”

Murphy retired from Goldman in 2003, years ahead of the financial meltdown, but Murphy said in disclosures filed when he became U.S. ambassador to Germany that he served as a senior director at the firm until 2006.

Murphy’s campaign says that as a senior-level retiree he got an office and assistant at the company but did not do any work for the company or get paid after 2003.

The ad then switches to strings and images of Johnson talking to voters and giving his biography, including his time as a federal prosecutor and working for the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan public policy institute that focuses on the justice system.

Murphy’s opponents have all targeted his Goldman connections and hope that voters hold his time at the Wall Street giant against him. Goldman also became an issue for Clinton, with Sanders relentlessly attacking her for taking payment for speeches to the firm.

The disconnect between progressivism and a career on Wall Street might resonate with some Democratic voters, but not enough to shape the primary’s outcome in a race that will likely have low turnout, said Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics. He says only a sliver of the party cares about that.

CASH ON HAND: $786,636, as of May 26

WATCH: https://bit.ly/2s28FrY

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PHIL MURPHY

THEME: The Democratic front-runner makes his closing pitch to voters, pledging to stand up to the president.

TITLE: “Line”

LENGTH: 30 seconds

AIRING: The campaign says the ad went on television statewide Wednesday and will run until Tuesday. It is not disclosing how much they’re spending.

KEY CLAIMS: Murphy appears on screen and as he details what he called “Trump’s assault” on values. It shows images of an older woman with gray hair when mentioning pre-existing conditions and a young girl running to a woman with open arms as Murphy talks about defending people who come here seeking freedom. Murphy ends the ad slashing horizontally with his pointer finger and saying New Jersey under him would draw a line against Trump.

ANALYSIS: The intended message is crystal clear: If you’re upset with Trump, who lost New Jersey last year, then vote for Murphy. There’s more context, though: Murphy is the front-runner in the six-person Democratic primary on Tuesday, leading polls and loaning his campaign about $16 million. He’s spent more than five times as much as his rivals.

The ad hits on a handful of key issues: protecting pre-existing conditions is shorthand for preventing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; keeping the environment safe refers to a related promise Murphy made to rejoin a regional greenhouse gas alliance that Christie pulled out of and also comes just after Trump pulled out of the international Paris climate deal; defending those who come here seeking freedom is a reference to Murphy’s pledge that he would challenge Trump’s defunding of so-called sanctuary cities; preserving a woman’s right to choose is a familiar reference to keeping abortion legal; the reference to fighting a cruel plan that cuts health care and education could refer to the GOP health care overhaul, Trump’s proposed budget and his tax cut blueprint.

CASH ON HAND: $1,067,089, as of May 26

WATCH: https://bit.ly/2rsIlVe

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ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI

TITLE: “The Choice.”

THEME: A commercial contrasting Wisniewski with Murphy.

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: The ad is running on broadcast and cable in New York and Philadelphia TV markets. His campaign says they’re spending more than $1 million.

KEY CLAIM: “The choice. Insider Wall Street politics or Main Street New Jersey values.”

ANALYSIS: The ad concentrates heavily on Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs and the ties the firm’s former executives have to Trump before linking Murphy with former Gov. Jon Corzine, another Goldman executive who also used his wealth to donate to Democratic candidates and groups before running.

The ad describes Wisniewski as “the son of a millwright who uncovered the Bridgegate scandal.” The former chairman of the state Democratic Party uncovered documents as chairman of a legislative committee investigating the lane closings after the media raised questions.

Wisniewski has been stuck in third place in polls behind Murphy and Johnson. His ad could help to make voters think twice about Murphy, especially for those that haven’t made up their mind yet.

CASH ON HAND: $108,912

WATCH: https://bit.ly/2s1KnOL

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REPUBLICANS

ASSEMBLYMAN JACK CIATTARELLI

THEME: “Gov. Chris Christie’s lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, had seven years to fix things and failed. Had enough? Me too.”

TITLE: “Me Too”

LENGTH: 30 seconds

AIRING: His campaign says the ad is running statewide on cable, radio and internet, but not the more expensive broadcast TV stations. The campaign declined to provide any financial figures.

KEY CLAIM: Ciattarelli argues that Guadagno deserves some of the blame for the state’s high property taxes, 11 credit downgrades during the Christie administration and what he describes as “dead last economic growth.” He says that he’s built two “successful Main Street businesses” and that “New Jersey needs a new direction and my plan gets us there.”

ANALYSIS: The Somerset County assemblyman continues to link Guadagno with the unpopular Christie, and argues a new direction is needed to address the state’s economic problems. Ciattarelli doesn’t go into details in the ad, but says that his plan will “rein in government, fix school funding to lower property taxes, and grow our economy to create jobs.”

As far as the problems he hits Guadagno for, New Jersey is widely known for its highest-in-the-nation property taxes, which are estimated by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Tax Foundation to carry a 2.38 percent effective rate. The statistic on downgrades is also correct, as New Jersey has struggled with a huge unfunded pension problem.

On the economic growth argument, Ciattarelli’s campaign points to a report from the Tax Foundation that lists New Jersey as last in the group’s “State Business Tax Climate Index,” which factors in issues including the state’s high property tax burden and income tax structure. The report also hits New Jersey over having an inheritance tax and estate tax, but the estate tax was phased out as part of a deal to raise the state’s gas tax last year. Ciattarelli voted against the gas tax package.

Guadagno has been forced to contend with Christie’s unpopularity. Polls show that more than three-quarters of voters disapprove of how he’s doing the job and most said they think his two terms have been a failure. She’s promising a “better” way forward and highlighting differences with Christie, but she backed him for most of their nearly eight years together in government.

CASH ON HAND: $163,963

WATCH: https://bit.ly/2s2f4Dx

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LT. GOV. KIM GUADAGNO

THEME: Meet Guadagno; and Ciattarelli is open to raising taxes.

TITLE: “Better” and “High Tax Jack”

LENGTH: 30 seconds, each

AIRING: Guadagno’s campaign says voters statewide will be seeing both these ads until Tuesday. They’re not disclosing the cost.

KEY CLAIMS: In “Better,” Guadagno introduces herself as a mom, prosecutor and sheriff, but leaves out that she’s been Christie’s top deputy for seven years. In “High Tax Jack,” she attacks Ciattarelli, saying he backs raising taxes and suggesting he would raise the gas tax, income taxes and the sales tax.

ANALYSIS: Guadagno is struggling to differentiate herself from Christie. “Better” illustrates the point, since the governor and even the lieutenant governor’s position over the last two terms are not mentioned.

Her attacks on Ciattarelli lack context.

Guadagno is citing a 2012 bill that would have potentially expanded the number of people who pay the sales tax. Ciattarelli voted in favor of the bill, which was not enacted into law.

But Ciattarelli also voted against the deal brokered last year between Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature that raised the gas tax 23 cents and cut other taxes.

Ciattarelli has said he would raise income taxes on high earners as part of a broader plan to reform the state’s tax code, including phasing out the business tax.

CASH ON HAND: $867,201, as of May 26

WATCH: “Better” https://bit.ly/2rkkpF5

“High Tax Jack” https://bit.ly/2rNzSPh

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HIRSH SINGH

TITLE: “The Murphy Threat.”

THEME: Portrays the Republican engineer as a political outsider.

LENGTH: 30 seconds.

AIRING: The campaign says the commercial is part of a $300,000 media ad buy on radio, television and the internet, primarily in New Jersey, but includes New York and Philadelphia radio markets.

KEY CLAIM: “I’m an engineer, not a politician. No one who has been in government can stop Murphy. I can, and I will.”

ANALYSIS: The 32-year-old aerospace engineer portrays himself as a government outsider and the “only conservative” in the race. He targets Murphy as a Goldman Sachs banker who has never held elected office.

Murphy served as Democratic National Committee chairman from 2006 to 2009. Singh describes the former ambassador to Germany in the Obama administration as a socialist.

Singh is a political newcomer who casts himself as a conservative problem-solver. His campaign looks like a long shot, but got a nearly $1 million infusion thanks to a loan from his father.

CASH ON HAND: $391,198

WATCH: https://bit.ly/2qK1Yuu

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Associated Press writer Josh Cornfield contributed to this story.

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