New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was narrowly re-elected on Wednesday, scoring a victory that spared Democrats the loss of a second governor’s seat.
He is the state’s first Democratic governor to win a second consecutive term in 44 years, defeating former Republican Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli.
Ciattarelli led a formidable campaign in strongly Democratic New Jersey, his spending nearly matching that of the governor and surpassing the GOP’s performance four years ago. But Murphy’s advantages, including an additional 1 million registered Democrats, have proven too difficult for the Republican to overcome.
The victory gives Democrats a silver lining after GOP businessman Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, heightening fears that the president’s sagging approval ratings Joe Biden harm the party. This year’s election was the first major test of voter sentiment since Biden took office and signaled a potentially painful year for Democrats as they attempt to maintain small majorities in Congress.
The proximity to the race surprised pundits, who watched public polls showing Murphy in the lead comfortably and turned to his party’s registration advantage.
“If you asked someone several months ago in the state, I think anyone would have predicted a double-digit landslide for Murphy,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.
Murphy’s victory also ends the party’s more than three-decade-old trend against the president’s victory in New Jersey’s off-year governor race. Voters got much higher rates for Ciattarelli this year than for its GOP predecessor in 2017.
The 64-year-old governor said he was keenly aware of political leanings, calling them a “driving force” for his re-election effort that prompted him to run if he was 10 points behind.
Murphy built his campaign around the progressive achievements he promulgated – such as the phased introduction of a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour and paid sick leave as well as taxes on the rich – and campaigned with Democratic allies, such as progressive US Senator Bernie Sanders. for him.
With a Democratic-led legislature, Murphy has kept most of the promises he made in his first term four years ago, when he was trying to succeed Republican Chris Christie.
Paid sick leave, taxpayer funded community college and some pre-K, tougher gun laws, expanded access to voting, recreational marijuana, more state aid for schools and a fully funded public pension – all promised and all delivered in the first term. A proposal for a public bank to finance projects was unsuccessful.
Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive and served as Ambassador to Germany under former President Barack Obama, who campaigned for Murphy in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
He said his next term would be to enact a reproductive freedom law to codify Roe v. Wade in the state as well as additional gun control laws and the expansion of taxpayer-funded preschool for 3-year-olds.
The headwinds Democrats face, like the drop in approval ratings for President Joe Biden and the difficulties Congressional Democrats have in implementing their agenda, were not sufficiently factored into the pre-election analysis of some. experts, said Ben Dworkin, director of Rowan University’s Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship. . He was counted among them.
A spokesperson for Ciattarelli said on Wednesday the campaign focused on the vote count and said a possible lawsuit over a recount was on the table. Murphy also called Wednesday morning to have every vote counted.
Ciattarelli is a former member of the State Assembly until 2018. He is the founder of a medical publishing company called Galen Publishing, and has served as a local and county official in Somerset.
He walked between defending the moderate positions he held in the Legislature – such as supporting Roe v. Wade – and appeal to Republicans who have embraced Trump, especially on cultural issues that have garnered attention across the country.
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