The Race for New Jersey


Earlier this week, Governor Phil Murphy became the first Democratic governor to win re-election in New Jersey in 44 years after beating Republican Jack Ciattarelli. Ciattarelli is a former member of the state assembly and a businessman. He was the first Republican to launch a campaign to unseat Murphy in January 2020, prior to the pandemic. Ciattarelli ran for governor in 2017, but lost the GOP primary to Republican nominee Kim Guadagno. He was known as a moderate during his time at the state capitol in Trenton, but shifted to the right during his primary, attending a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6th, the day of the riot at the U.S. capitol. Ciattarelli promised to lower taxes for everyone and reduce the size and cost of our “bloated government.” He is very upfront about his views on vaccination. As a vaccinated person, Ciattarelli encourages others to get vaccinated. However, he does not encourage government mandates on the COVID-19 vaccine; “Government should educate people with the facts and let them make decisions on how to protect themselves” (Fox News). 

  Governor Phil Murphy won re-election on a strong campaign that held to the same values to make New Jersey a stronger state. He turned out votes in the Republican stronghold districts of Ocean and Monmouth counties and also did well in suburbs across the state. Morris County, which had recently been shifting blue, supported the Republican. New Jersey has about a million more registered Democrats than Republicans. Both of the state’s U.S. senators are Democrats, and both chambers of the state legislature are Republicans. But gubernatorial races have been much less predictable. Murphy highlighted education in his campaign ad, wanting to expand access to digital devices for students, increase preschool fundings, and establish a program to allow low-income students to receive two years of tuition-free education at public colleges and universities. In response to COVID-19 on the campaign website, he highlighted the establishment of testing sites, distribution of federal aid, and vaccination campaigns as part of his pandemic response. Although Governor Murphey made history for a good reason, New Jersey has the lowest turnout it has ever experienced. Only 37% of eligible voters participated on election day, causing a  >1% margin in win, despite pre-election polls showing the incumbent governor with a comfortable lead over his Republican rival. Polls showed Murphy that received strong support for his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, which significantly impacted New Jersey in early 2020 and resulted in the deaths of more than 25,000 people statewide. However, the state also excelled at getting people vaccinated as it was one of the states with the highest percentages of eligible people to be fully vaccinated. 

While the Associated Press and other news outlets have called the race for Murphy, the election was one of several that served as a warning sign for Democrats as they head into the 2022 midterms. As of November 10th, Ciattarelli has not conceded. “We understand that Governor Murphy and his team are embarrassed that in a state with 1 million more registered Democrats and where [President] Joe Biden won by 16 points, they are leading by such a small margin,” Chris Russell, a strategist for Ciattarelli, said in a statement. “But the Murphy campaign’s attempt to spin their lackluster performance will have no impact on our decision.”

New Jersey does not have an automatic recount law, but the candidates are permitted to request one. The party that wants a recount must file a suit in State Superior Court in the counties where they want to contest tallies. That has to be done within 17 days of Election Day.

The election was one of the most intense races seen in New Jersey. This longlasting battle between the two rivals held close in the number of votes, but at the end someone walks out as the winner.