WHELAN BILL TO EXTEND PUBLIC FINANCING TO SPECIAL GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS APPROVED BY SENATE STATE GOVERNMENT PANEL

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A measure sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan that would extend a law that assists those without deep financial pockets to still competitively run for statewide office in New Jersey through a public financing program was approved today by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

“The United States is a country formed of the ideals that any individual citizen can rise up to lead and become an elected representative, directly contrary to the idea that political leaders should only be nobility or the wealthy,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic, who is also chair of the Committee. “New Jersey’s public financing of gubernatorial campaigns – and now extended to lieutenant governor campaigns – is an avenue to ensure that everyday citizens can run for office, leading to a true representative government. This is even more important in the post-Citizens United world where Super PACs have an inordinate influence over the electoral process. At the request of the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission and under this bill we are expanding this open process to times when special elections may occur.”

The bill, S-1647, would clarify that public financing both in primaries and the general election for the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor would be available in a special election if a vacancy were to occur.

New Jersey was the first state in the country to provide public financing of gubernatorial elections in 1977, extending financing to primaries beginning in 1981. Under the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commissions guidelines, a candidate is eligible for a two dollar match for every dollar raised if they raise more than $380,000 towards their campaign and participate in two public debates.

New Jersey’s gubernatorial public financing program is paid for through a voluntary state income tax check-off and through the general fund.

The bill was approved with a vote of 5-0. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further review.