Politics /

Ciattarelli leads Murphy in ‘Too Close Call’ New Jersey Governor Race

The Republican's success in the state came as a surprise after incumbent governor had consistently outranked him in the polls

With more than 85% of precincts reporting in, Republican Jack Ciattarelli was ahead of Democrat Governor Phil Murphy by roughly 1,200 votes in New Jersey.

The race’s dead heat has shocked many because the incumbent governor has consistently polled ahead of his challenger.

Ciattarelli, a former state assemblyman, focused his campaign on lowering taxes, fighting mask requirements, and opposing vaccine mandates. Notably, Ciattarelli also objected to critical race theory and the possibility that it would be a core part of the educational curriculum in the state.

“We are not going to teach our children to feel guilty,” he said while campaigning.

Critical race theory also became a central issue in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, with Republican Glenn Youngkin — the likely winner — strongly opposing its instruction. 

Just after midnight on Nov.3, the 59-year-old told the crowd at his election night party that he would make a victory declaration as soon as the results were official.

“We’ve sent a message to the entire nation,” he told his supporters. “This is what I love about this state: Every single time it’s gone too far off track, the people of this state have pushed, pulled and prodded it right back to where it needs to be.”

With more than 2.3 million votes cast, Ciattarelli flipped several counties that supported Murphy in 2017, including Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester and Somerset counties. In Ocean County, he outperformed the state’s last Republican governor, Chris Christie, in 2009. 

Murphy “campaigned as a solid progressive, with a record to show for it. He signed bills into law that expanded voting access, provided for taxpayer-funded pre-K and community college, hiked the minimum wage to $15 an hour over time along with opening up the state to renewable energy like wind power,” per AP News.

The governor relied on cities and counties with larger urban populations, which is typically a winning strategy for Democrats. Notably, his margins of support in these areas were smaller than four years earlier.

Registered Democrats also outnumber Republicans in New Jersey by about 1 million voters, which ostensibly would have been an advantage for Murphy.

In the lead up to Election day, “a Superior Court judge denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the League of Women Voters to extend voting hours to 9:30 after reports of voting problems across the state in connection with a new electronic system to verify the identify of voters,” reports NJ Advanced Media.

New Jersey does not require automatic recounts when election results are extremely close. Candidates can initiate a county-by-county challenge of the results within 17 days of the election. They must apply to a Superior Court judge within the district they believe to be in error. The recount is then conducted by a county board with the judge’s supervision.

“Should the recount result in a different outcome, or if it results in a change of at least 10 votes or 10% of the votes cast (whichever is greater), the government will pay the costs and the deposits will be refunded,” reports Fox News. “Otherwise, the recount costs will be deducted from the deposits.”

As of Wednesday morning, 158 of the state’s 6,348 voting districts had yet to be counted.

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