Democrat Murphy narrowly wins reelection in surprisingly tight New Jersey gubernatorial race

Murphy becomes first Democratic governor in New Jersey to win a second term since 1977.
Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ)

Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly won reelection to become the first Democratic governor in New Jersey to win a second term since 1977.

The Associated Press called the race shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, nearly a day after polls closed in the Garden State.

Murphy defeated former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who ran unsuccessfully for the post four years ago, but didn't advance past the Republican primary.

"For almost four years now, our focus has not been on trying to do more for those who already have much, but to do much for those in the middle and at the bottom so that they have more opportunity," Fox News quoted Murphy as saying during his election night remarks. "Our mission has been simple — to build a state where every child, regardless of race or gender, creed or zip code, has the opportunity to live out their hopes and achieve their American dream."

Of the more than 2.4 million ballots cast, Murphy was leading by about 19,000 votes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"Last night was a historic one for New Jersey Republicans, who picked up at least a half dozen Assembly seats, several Senate seats, along with county and local seats up and down the state," Stami Williams, a Ciattarelli campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement before the Associated Press called the race. "Jack is proud to lead our ticket and our party's resurgence. Right now, our team is focused on making sure all the legal votes are counted and our citizens can have confidence in the system."

The outcome was a surprise turn for a race most pundits predicted Murphy would win easily. 

Statewide, Republicans claimed victory following Tuesday's election. Among the Garden State shockers, Republican Edward Durr, a political novice, appeared poised to defeat Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) in South Jersey's 3rd District.

According to reports, Durr spent just $153 on his campaign.

"The earthquake that rattled the Legislature yesterday reflected the public's lack of confidence after a year and a half of pandemic mandates," state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) said in a statement earlier Wednesday.

"The Democrat Legislature sat on the sidelines during one of the most important, neediest times in our state history," Pennacchio added. "Instead of engaging and representing constituents, legislators circled their wagons and defended a governor instead of protecting the people against his arbitrary rules and edicts."