The race for governor which featured early voting for the first time in the state’s history will finish with counting after Election Day as the race is too close to call.
12 p.m. Update:
After Gov. Phil Murphy edged ahead of Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli overnight, the GOP nominee has retaken the lead at 12:30 in a governor’s race that remains too close to call.
According to the Associated Press account with 88% of the vote counted, Ciattarelli has a 465 vote lead over Murphy. Historically, this is shaping up to be the closests race since 1981 when Republican Tom Kean defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Florio. The race would be called for Kean 26 days later.
The Ciattarelli team has made it known they are in it for the long haul.
“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,” said Stami Williams, Ciattarelli campaign spokeswoman, in a press statement released Nov. 3. “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.”
Nov. 3 8 a.m. update:
Gov. Phil Murphy edged ahead of Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli overnight in a governor’s race that remains too close to call.
Additional votes favoring Murphy were tallied very early this morning in Hudson County, resulting in the incumbents having a 1,667 votes lead, or just 0.07% of the votes counted so far. There are 160 precincts statewide that haven’t yet reported results in nine counties that would seem to lean heavily for Democrats. They include 56 precincts in Essex County, including 23 in Newark; 40 precincts in Camden County; and 21 precincts in Union County, including 10 in Elizabeth.
Additionally, Hunterdon County’s totals don’t reflect about 4,700 early in-person votes. And Mercer County’s totals don’t include vote-by-mail ballots, totaling more than 28,000 – including 18,000 returned by registered Democrats, 3,500 from registered Republicans and 5,000 from unaffiliated voters.
“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,” said Stami Williams, Ciattarelli campaign spokeswoman. “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.”
Election night ended with both candidates stating the election would not be decided until the following days. GOP nominee Ciattarelli led the incumbent Murphy 50%-49% with 86% of the vote counted as of 12:10 am Nov. 3 when both candidates told supporters to go home from their respective campaign parties. That translated to 1,009,137 votes for Ciattarelli compared with 981,666 for Murphy.
In general, Republican candidates outperformed in such strongholds as Ocean and Monmouth while Democrats did not perform up to the gains in recent elections such as Bergen and Morris.
Ciaterrelli’s supporters had argued the election was going to be much closer than the eight point spread in three different polls published in the last week of the election.
Ciattarelli, the former Assemblyman, ran a race that argued the Garden State was broken, and he was the man to fix it. That plan included a number of tax cuts, a new school funding formula favored the suburbs and argued for personal choice when it came to COVID-19 masks and vaccine mandates.
Addressing his supporters after Murphy, Ciattarelli proclaimed “We are winning…we want ever legal vote counted. When that is done, I will be standing in front of you not saying we are winning but that we won.”
Across the state, Republicans won some of the more hotly contested State Senate and Assembly races. In what would turn out to be a harbinger for the Garden State’s election, Democrats lost their other high-profile governor’s race when GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin defeated former Governor, Terry McAuliffe.
Counting Every Vote
While Ciattarelli led most of the night, the Murphy camp was holding out hope that when all vote by mail ballots as well as early voting, he would be on top.
In addressing a crowd of supporters in Asbury Park around 12:30 a.m., Murphy said “We’re going to wait for every vote to be counted and that’s how our democracy works. We are sorry that tonight was not the celebration it could be but we hope to have that celebration.”
Murphy, who never fell below 50% in polls leading up to the election, is attempting to become the first Democrat in 44 years to win a second term in office. Brendan Byrne was first elected in 1973 and re elected in 1977.
Murphy ran on his progressive record—including a higher minimum wage, social justice reforms and clean energy initiatives—that he said was just the start of attempting to make the state “stronger and fairer.” He consistently received good marks for the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in polls over the last 20 months and vigorously defended his actions, including those at long-term care facilities early in the pandemic and then later mask and vaccine mandates.