Murphy Gives Democrats a Victory

Republican doesn't concede after AP calls race for incumbent
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2021 7:15 PM CDT
Murphy Gives Democrats a Victory
Board workers Bernadette Witt, left, and JoAnn Bartlett process and doublecheck mail-in ballots Wednesday in Hackensack, N.J.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly won reelection in New Jersey after a campaign in which vaccine and mask mandates became a central issue. The AP called the race for Murphy on Wednesday evening, with about 90% of the ballots counted, once most of the remaining ballots were due to come from strongly Democratic areas. There were also mail-in ballots out from various areas, but Murphy had lead all along on those, even in areas that lean Republican. Still, a spokesperson for his Republican opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, called the AP's decision "irresponsible," given that the margin at the time was less than 1 percentage point.

The victory makes Murphy the first Democratic governor in 44 years to be reelected in New Jersey, per Virginia is the only other state to elect a governor this year, a race won by the Republican. Like Virginia, New Jersey voted for President Biden by a large margin in last year's election. Murphy won by plenty four years ago, and polls showed him ahead by less this time, but they didn't see the race as this close. The governor's large lead diminished to single digits just before the election, per the Washington Post.

His lead faded as Ciattarelli repeatedly hit at taxes and whether schools should teach that systemic racism exists, as well as Murphy's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor's coronavirus restrictions undermined personal freedom, the Republican said. Still, Murphy did not retreat from his progressive policies. "We're leading with compassion and empathy, not anger and despair," Murphy told backers early Wednesday. "We're following science and facts, not the political winds." Ciattarelli, a former state legislator, has the right to petition the state courts for a recount. (Read more Phil Murphy stories.)

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