TRENTON — Former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley endorsed New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli.

Haley attended a fundraiser for Ciattarelli on Sunday, according to the candidate's campaign.

Ciattarelli is a former Assembly member and small business founder, aiming to defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in November's election. New Jersey and Virginia are the only states with regularly scheduled governors' races this year, while California has a recall election set for September.

Haley's endorsement carries some national name recognition to Ciattarelli, who won a primary last month, defeating two candidates who centered their campaigns on supporting former President Donald Trump.

“I’m proud to endorse Jack Ciattarelli to fix what Phil Murphy has broken. A Main Street business owner, Jack understands the importance of lowering taxes, getting New Jersey working again and standing with law enforcement officers to keep communities safe,” Haley said in a statement.

Jack Ciattarelli announces bid for governor in 2021. (NJTV via YouTube)

Haley was an “exceptional governor” and helped the Trump administration move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Ciattarelli said in a text message.

Murphy's campaign said in a statement that the endorsement was “nothing to celebrate” and called Haley a “Trump lackey.”

New Jersey voted for the Democratic candidate for president in both elections Trump ran in, and has delivered its electoral votes to Democrats going back to 1992.

Haley won two terms as governor in South Carolina, leaving in 2017 to serve as the United States' ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration.

Polls have shown Murphy leading Ciattarelli, whom surveys indicate is not widely known across the state.

News of the endorsement was first reported by the USA Today Network.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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