Philip Murphy narrowly wins New Jersey Governors race
Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat from New Jersey whose aggressive approach to controlling the pandemic has become a focal point in the attempt to topple him, narrowly clung to the governor’s office in a surprisingly close election that has highlighted strong divisions over mask and vaccine mandates, even in a liberal-leaning state.
With around 90% of the vote, Mr Murphy was ahead of his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, by less than a percentage point when the Associated Press called the race just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday after an extended tally. Most of the outstanding votes were in Democratic strongholds.
For Democrats who had long believed Mr Murphy’s victory was assured even as the national electoral picture darkened, the 24 hours after the polls closed turned out to be tense: Mr Ciattarelli at one point held a lead substantial.
All opinion polls throughout the campaign had shown Mr Murphy would be heading for an easy victory. But Mr Ciattarelli hammered home high state taxes and polarizing questions such as whether schools should teach systemic racism, and he has repeatedly claimed that Mr Murphy’s strict Covid rules undermine personal freedom.
Democratic strategists began to whisper a vague sense of anxiety that only intensified after grassroots Republicans came out in force at the second debate in South Jersey in mid-October.
Mr. Murphy’s narrow victory – and a key loss in the Virginia governor’s race – have been widely interpreted as worrying signs for Democrats, potentially signaling voter dismay at President Biden, fears about the economy and a pullback on cultural issues that were at the heart of some GOP campaigns.
Still, a victory by any margin was considered a milestone. Mr Murphy, a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive, is the first Democrat in more than four decades to be re-elected in the largely suburban state.
Mr Murphy was scheduled to address fans on Wednesday night at Asbury Park. Mr Ciattarelli did not immediately concede, and a spokesperson wrote on Twitter that it was “irresponsible” to declare a winner in the close race.
Mr Murphy, 64, had campaigned largely on his first-term record and his decidedly left-wing approach to governing a state where there are nearly 1.1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Residents polled in polls and university studies have given Mr Murphy some of his top marks for how he has responded to the pandemic.
But Mr Ciattarelli, a former member of the assembly, made Mr Murphy’s edicts a centerpiece of his campaign, using commercials and stump speeches to attack vaccination warrants and compulsory masking in schools, and accusing Mr. Murphy’s foreclosure orders of harming small businesses and preventing students from entering. school for too long.
Lindsey Laverty, 31, said it was Mr Murphy’s mask and vaccines that caused her to vote against him.
“We have to get back to freedom and choice,” she said Wednesday in Somerville, NJ.
The pandemic was by no means the only problem. Mr Ciattarelli led a Wall Street vs. Main Street theme home and focused on a 2019 commentary from Mr Murphy on taxes. “If you are a single problem voter and the tax rate is your problem, whether it is a family or a business – if that is the only basis on which you are going to make a decision,” Mr. Murphy, “We’re probably not your state.
Mr Ciattarelli’s campaign plastered portions of the commentary on billboards, on Facebook and in television ads statewide.
Mr Murphy appeared to significantly underperform President Biden’s performance in 2020 in the highly educated suburban counties that had favored Democrats during Trump’s day – the kind of counties that were at the heart of the Democratic takeover House in 2018, including New Jersey.
“What has changed in recent weeks is that President Biden’s endorsements have taken a hit as the national mood has changed,” said Michael Soliman, a veteran of New Jersey Democratic politics, referring to low numbers from Mr Biden’s polls. He said Democrats – both progressive, like Mr. Murphy, and more conservative, like Steve Sweeney, the Democratic leader of the state Senate, who was still locked in a tight race on Wednesday – were feeling the effect of this changing national playground.
Michael DuHaime, who was the senior strategist for former Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s victories in 2009 and 2013, said former President Donald J. Trump’s absence from the poll brought some voters back into the GOP fold.
“They didn’t like Donald Trump. It’s pretty straightforward. It was not an endorsement to go far left, ”Mr. DuHaime said.
During campaign stoppages over the past week, Mr Ciattarelli displayed a Boston Bruins jersey emblazoned with Mr Murphy’s name as he reminded fans of the Massachusetts governor’s roots and his banking pedigree. white shoes investment.
In the end, more voters seemed to support the approach taken by Mr. Murphy, who in his first term made New Jersey one of the most progressive states in the country.
Over the past four years, he has struck a deal to gradually raise the minimum wage to $ 15, increase the tax rate on income above $ 1 million, and legalize marijuana. It made the community college free to students from households with incomes below $ 65,000, restored the right to vote for those on probation and parole, and authorized driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
The results came in slowly after polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Democratic strongholds like Essex and Camden counties, skewing early totals and making it clear that the race would be much tighter than expected.
The number of outstanding letters and provisional ballots was at the heart of the delay in the race appeal.
New Jersey did not allow local election officials to begin “preprocessing” of ballots this year before election day, resulting in more than 520,000 mail-in ballots being counted in a single day .
The new voting materials used to allow voters to vote early, in person, also caused confusion; in some cases, voters had to use emergency provisional ballots to vote, which increased the volume of ballots to be counted.
The 120 legislative seats were also on the ballot. Democrats were to retain control of Trenton, but appeared to be on the verge of losing several seats, including one held by Mr Sweeney.
He was often able to bend the entire legislature to his will, but he was lagging behind in his race against an unknown Republican candidate, Edward Durr, whose campaign spent just $ 153. The race remained too close to be announced on Wednesday.
Mr. Murphy will enter his second term in the face of serious challenges. New Jersey’s unemployment rate of around 7% is one of the highest in the country, and school districts are only now beginning to assess the true impact of the pandemic on learning, especially in large cities. state, where many schools have been closed for over a year.
Key points from the 2021 elections
“We’ve come a long way,” Murphy said during a campaign stop Tuesday in Newark. “But our work is not done. We must keep moving forward. “
The governor has vowed to continue trying to codify abortion rights in New Jersey if federal protections are changed and to strengthen the state’s already tough gun laws. None of these efforts have gained ground in the Legislature, where moderate Democrats continue to rule, reflecting some of the divisions in the party as a whole.
By securing a second term, Mr Murphy broke a 44-year streak in a row in New Jersey, where voters had not re-elected a Democratic governor since 1977, when Brendan Byrne won a second term.
Fans said his victory was what mattered. “A governor for a second term is called a governor,” said Sue Altman, leader of the Left Working Families Alliance, which has worked closely with Mr Murphy on key legislation. “It doesn’t matter how many points.”
During his campaign, Mr. Murphy flexed the power of the incumbent president, appearing alongside a flood of Democratic luminaries including Mr. Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former President Barack Obama. Mr Ciattarelli stopped by veterans’ wards and restaurants, highlighting issues such as high taxes and the extraordinary death rate from Covid-19 in New Jersey nursing homes.
“Phil Murphy killed over 8,000 grandparents,” read black and white campaign signs along the roads, without mentioning Mr. Ciattarelli’s name.
But throughout the race, Mr Ciattarelli also touched sensitive chords that are likely to resonate most with voters who have supported Mr Trump.
He opposed most abortions after 20 weeks and said parents should be notified if their underage daughter is looking to terminate a pregnancy. He appeared among Trump supporters at a “stop the fly” rally and denounced the teaching of Critical Race Theory, which argues that patterns of racism are ingrained in American institutions or in a program involving highlight the LGBTQ pioneers.
“We don’t teach sodomy in sixth grade,” Ciattarelli told supporters in June.
Four public polls released in the past week alone found Mr. Murphy maintained a comfortable lead in New Jersey.
But as Election Day approached, the ghost of 2009 began to haunt conversations.
Strategists recalled the Democratic defeat in Virginia that year and Mr. Christie’s victory over the government of the day. Jon Corzine – both seen as forerunners of the mid-term rout of 2010, which Mr. Obama memorably called “shellacking.”
During a rally Thursday night to secure the vote with Mr Murphy at Rutgers University, Senator Sanders warned an enthusiastic crowd of students that turnout is likely to be low – and that every vote counts.
LeRoy J. Jones Jr., chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, said inertia in Washington played a role in the close vote.
“The paralysis in Washington has made its way here in New Jersey,” Mr. Jones said. “The dysfunction caused people to take a break. “
Chris Russell, a Ciattarelli campaign strategist, said Mr Ciattarelli had injected “new life” into the Republican Party.
” Many things have changed. The whole democratic power structure has changed, ”said Russell.
“And the advantage for the Republican Party in the state is that it has a new lease of life,” he added. “And that’s a testimonial from Jack Ciattarelli.”
Kevin Armstrong, Nate Schweber and Lauren Hard contributed reporting.