“It’s been a privilege to take care of families and what I found is there’s a common thread we all have: We care about our families and we want to take care of them, we want to feel safe and we want to be respected. And it’s as simple as that,” Brown said in his announcement.
According to Brown, his platform includes addressing issues on generational poverty and crime, supporting small businesses and minority entrepreneurs, improving quality of life at public schools and assisting those reentering society after serving prison terms.
In Philadelphia, Brown has earned a reputation for his efforts to help underserved communities and for partnering with smaller businesses run by minorities.
A handful of stores under the Brown’s Super Stores name are in historically underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods where there is limited access to healthy, affordable food. In 2010, Brown was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at President Barak Obama’s State of the Union address in recognition of his work advising the administration on solutions to the national “food desert” crisis.
Brown has also hired hundreds of formerly incarcerated people and operates a business incubator out of his supermarkets, offering entrepreneurs a chance to sell merchandise across the supermarket locations.
In response to the pandemic, Brown co-founded the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund to offer $3,000 forgivable loans to startup companies across the state.
In 2019, Brown made political waves when he criticized Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney’s 1.5 cent-per-ounce soda tax. Since then, he’s become relatively outspoken on social media, often weighing in on current events and other public issues.
Kenney, who’s nearing the end of his second term, cannot run for another.
The poll asked respondents which party they prefer in the congressional election, with 47% saying they would vote for a generic Democrat while 37% picked a generic Republican candidate. However, more voters said they supported the Republican positions on hot-button issues such as the economy, immigration and crime over Democratic positions.
While more voters supported GOP positions on the economy (43% Republican support, 35% Democratic support), Democrats outpolled Republicans on the issues of abortion (49% Democratic support, 23% Republican support) and health care (50% Democratic support, 26% Republican support) by large margins.
More than half (57%) were very enthusiastic about voting in the midterms and 21% were somewhat enthusiastic. But more Republicans said they were eager to vote: 70% were very enthusiastic compared with 54% of Democrats and 55% of independents.
“There is some good news for Republicans in this poll,” said John Froonjian, director of the Hughes Center. “Support for President Biden is weak (46% favorable, 47% unfavorable), Republican enthusiasm is strong and the top issues in the election are working for the Republicans. One question is whether the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade will motivate Democratic turnout, especially among women.”
The poll also explored the hot-button issue of student loan debt forgiveness, with voters somewhat split over whether to support forgiving up to $20,000 in student loan debt. Half support the plan to cancel debt while 41% oppose it and 9% were not sure. Voters younger than 30 agreed with it the most (71%) and support was lowest among senior citizens (40%).
The 2021 elections produced the second most expensive gubernatorial race in state history accounting for inflation, according to a campaign finance report issued Nov. 24.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli combined to spend nearly $49 million in the primary and general elections, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission said in the report. Outside groups spent another $41.7 million, the most of any governor’s race, the NJELEC found, for total expenditures of $90.6 million.
“We have been predicting for more than a decade that independent special interest groups that spend separately from candidates or parties have become a major force in New Jersey elections,” NJELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said in a statement. “The trend in gubernatorial elections offers perhaps the best evidence yet.
On an inflation-adjusted basis, the costliest election was in 2005, when Democrat Jon Corzine defeated Republican Doug Forrester. The two candidates spent a combined $87.7 million, while outside groups spent just $407,748. In 2021 dollars, the race cost more than $124.8 million.
Meanwhile the third most expensive race was in 2009, when Republican Chris Christie unseated Corzine. That race cost nearly $70.2 million – $90.4 in today’s dollars – and included $56.1 million in spending from the two candidates along with $14 million from outside groups.
Murphy’s first race, in which he defeated then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in 2017, was the fourth costliest race, at $89.2 million when adjusted for inflation. The $24.5 million of outside spending on the race was a record, Brindle noted.
For the general election, Murphy raised $16.7 million and spent nearly $16.4 million, while Ciattarelli raised $16.3 million and spent more than $15.8 million.
The Democratic Governors Association backed Murphy by sending $2.5 million to the super PAC Our NJ, which spent $8.7 million on the race, and $2.5 million to another group, the Committee to Build the Economy.
Garden State Forward, the super PAC for the state’s largest teacher’s union, the New Jersey Education Association, spent $8.7 million in support of Murphy’s campaign. Two other groups – the carpenter’s group Working for Working Americans and the Carpenter’s Action – gave a combined $2.5 million to Our NJ.
The Republican Governors Association spent $3.8 million in support of Ciattarelli, according to NJELEC.
Murphy’s margin of victory in 2o21 was just 3 percentage points, closer than polls has suggested.
Gov. Phil Murphy made his first major public appearance since narrowly winning reelection, defending his actions on the economy, the cost of living, the pandemic and taxes but offering no details on his next term or lame duck priorities.
“Make no doubt, this state is moving forward. I am committed to keep it pointed in this direction,” Murphy said at a luncheon on the third day of the New Jersey League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City. His remarks included at least 13 references to taxes.
“We have had – and not even arguably – the most successful efforts to date in providing real property tax relief to our residents,” the governor said.
“This is not abstract,” he continued. “The budgets our administration has enacted have contributed to three of the lowest year-over-year increases in property taxes on record and the slowest rate of property tax increases of any administration since the start of the millennium.”
In his March 2020 budget address, Murphy claimed that no governor in New Jersey history had done more to bring down property taxes. He did so again during his Thursday remarks.
“[O]ver our first term, we’ve invested more in property tax relief than in any other term in state history,” the governor said.
But other figures have arguably made significant contributions in that endeavor: Republican Gov. Chris Christie in enacting a 2% cap on local tax increases and Democratic Gov. Brendan Bryne enacted the income tax.
On the economy, Murphy cited the relocation of fintech giant Fiserv to Berkeley Heights — which state officials said would add 2,000 jobs — the HAX accelerator in Newark with a potential 2,500 jobs, Netflix’s interest in using the old Fort Monmouth army base as a film and TV production facility and the general growth of the film and TV industry.
“We have an incentive program that is focused on early-stage startup businesses, on innovation, and on entrepreneurship,” Murphy said. “We know how local government thrives on innovation and entrepreneurship, too. That’s one reason we fought so hard for this new focus – to ensure that our entire state was pointed in the same direction.
But he offered little on how to build the state economy and improve the business climate in his second term. “He never really defined his economic priorities,” Tom Bracken, CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview earlier this month. “The economy hasn’t been given as much attention.”
Many members of Murphy’s party agree. Some of the top New Jersey Democrats at a Nov. 17 panel conceded that state leaders must to do more to address affordability, taxes and the cost of living given the election results.
That was, until now, mostly a viewpoint held by Republican lawmakers – that the state was not doing enough to focus on affordability.
“I think no matter what stripe you wear, the electorate told us that affordability and also efficiency of government is essential, and things we need to be mindful of as state legislators,” Sen. Troy Singleton, D-7th District, said the panel discussion.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, agreed, saying that affordability needs to be “at the top” of what lawmakers focus on, meaning significant tax reform and “working for a plan that recognizes those shared middle class values that we champion all the time.”
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, who was narrowly defeated by Republican Ed Durr, did not indicate with reporters earlier in the day whether his lame duck efforts would focus on affordability and taxes, like Singleton and Coughlin said.
“For 12 years and prior to that, all I’ve talked about was affordability,” Sweeney said.
Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly won reelection and now must deal with some of the biggest obstacles facing New Jersey’s economy. Taxes, NJ Transit and sluggish job growth all present problems. Murphy’s opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, campaigned on many of those issues, and nearly unseated the first-term Democrat.
Many business leaders said they felt that Murphy’s slim victory meant New Jerseyans believed he was not making enough progress on those fronts. “He never really defined his economic priorities,” said Tom Bracken, CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. “The economy hasn’t been given as much attention.”
In the weeks leading up to the election, the governor notched several business wins, which he used as evidence that his economic agenda is paying off. The relocation of fintech giant Fiserv to Berkeley Heights — which state officials said would add 2,000 jobs — the HAX accelerator in Newark with a potential 2,500 jobs, Netflix’s interest in using the old Fort Monmouth army base as a film and TV production facility and Amazon’s plans to use office space in Jersey City were all offered as evidence of the incumbent’s success.
Ciattarelli countered that the state had been picking winners by putting up so much cash in subsidies to lure in these companies.
Job growth in New Jersey since the pandemic has lagged, and the Garden State still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. During the worst of the COVID-19 shutdowns in March and April 2020, the state’s workforce lost 720,000 jobs, many of them in retail, leisure and hospitality.
The jobless rate, which was below the national average before the pandemic, exploded to a record-high 16.6% in April last year, and has remained above 7% in 2021.
Perhaps paradoxically, Labor shortages continue to plague the state and the nation ahead of the 2021 holiday retail season. Murphy earlier this fall unveiled a series of state subsidies to help alleviate the shortage: $500 in a back-to-work bonus and $10,000 that the state will pay for training wages for someone looking to switch career paths.
‘No new taxes’
During the first gubernatorial debate, Murphy vowed not to raise taxes over his second term – a tall order at a time of economic uncertainty. New Jersey is widely regarded as having some of the highest taxes in the nation, from property taxes to corporate and income taxes. The state imposes a millionaire’s tax and a top corporate tax rate of 11.5%. New Jersey’s average tax bill for 2020 was more than $9,000.
Murphy cannot seek a third term but voters could well take out their frustration over taxes on Democratic lawmakers in two years and the next Democratic gubernatorial nominee four years from now.
Many Legislative Democrats narrowly held onto their seats on Nov. 2, while long-time Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, the state’s most powerful lawmaker, was upended by a largely unknown Republican who spent only $153 on his campaign. Skittishness in the statehouse over Murphy’s policies could hinder the governor.
In 2017, voters unhappy with Republican Gov. Chris Christie handed Murphy a landslide victory over his opponent, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. The Democratic nominee in 2025 could face a similar fate.
But Ben Dworkin, who heads the Rowan Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship, pointed out Murphy so far lacks an equivalent to the Bridgegate lane closure scandal that bedeviled Christie. And, Drowkin added, Murphy has not been out campaigning across the country for president, a move that added to Christie’s unpopularity. Of course, Murphy may indeed harbor national aspirations which would necessitate trips to early primary states.
Re-energizing the party
This year, Democratic voter turnout was low while Republican turnout was high, said Dan Cassino, who heads the polling institute at Fairleigh Dickinson University. That dynamic may have been caused, in part, by the inability of national Democrats in Washington to deliver on a policy agenda, Cassino suggested.
Inter-party-political squabbling, between Murphy and Sweeney or among national Democrats over President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill and $1.75 trillion spending bill, may have left voters cold.
“At what point does the common guy walk into a voting booth and say, ‘well if you can’t get along with yourself, maybe we need to shake this up and stop squabbling,’” said Greg Lalevee, business manager of the 8,200-member International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, one of the state’s most prominent unions. “The tribalism of our politics and whatnot has, I think, taken away from accomplishing goals.”
In addition, the pandemic remains a challenge. To expand the state economy, “they have to crush COVID-19. This economy does not grow until we are at a different place,” Dworkin said. That means even better vaccination rates, especially now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children ages five to 11.
While COVID-19 cases are decreasing, the state still runs the risk of a holiday surge as resident gather in person and the colder weather forces them indoors where the risk of viral spread is much greater.
Murphy has repeatedly stressed that he’d like to avoid the COVID-19 closures that ravaged the economy in 2020. And he’s insisted that he would steer clear of vaccines mandates.
The governor must also contend with issues that past administrations have struggled with for decades. Dworkin cautioned that to keep tax increases truly off the table, “he’s got to keep the… state’s fiscal house in order.”
Easier said than done. While the state’s coffers are buoyed by unexpected increases in tax revenues, $4 billion of new debt that cannot be paid back for years and $6.4 billion of federal aid from the Biden administration and billions more from the Trump administration, that money will not last.
“If states become used to… those funds being there, a few years from now when the funds are gone and they have to support services with their own revenues, it could create budget challenges,” Doug Offerman, an analyst with Fitch, said in an interview earlier this year.
And with New Jersey having one of the highest levels of debt in the country – $44.4 billion, plus an underfunded public worker pension system – those items can continue to crowd out other policy priorities. The record $46.4 billion state budget includes an all-time high single pension payment of $6.4 billion, plus billions of tax rebates, and expanded tuition assistance for two and four-year college degrees.
While Murphy has touted a “stronger and fairer New Jersey” which “works for everyone,” Bracken lamented that while the “fairer side was very-well addressed with all the progressive programs” such as paid sick leave and $15 minimum wage, the other side has been neglected.
“The stronger side – which is building a strong business community so we can achieve the sustainable revenue we need… to pay for all those programs – wasn’t addressed as aggressively,” Bracken said.
Murphy campaigned on fixing NJ Transit “even if it kills him,” and he has managed a number of fixes. More trains arrive on time, fewer are cancelled, more engineers have been hired and rolling stock has been added.
But the statewide mass transit agency has no consistent source of funding, and instead diverts funds earmarked for capital projects to operating expenses. Ridership fell during COVID-19 and has rebounded to only about 50% its pre-pandemic levels, hurting revenues.
“The work that had to be done in advance of that to strengthen NJ Transit as an operating partner … has been done,” said Tony Coscia, Amtrak’s chair and a trustee of the Gateway Development Program Corp. Murphy’s first term laid the groundwork for NJ Transit improvements, Coscia said, and its transformation can take off in the second term.
Murphy was not able to advance the $12.3 billion Gateway project – a complex and critically important infrastructure program that would improve rail service in northern New Jersey. But he shouldn’t necessarily be faulted for that, given opposition from the Trump administration. Under the plans, a new tunnel would replace the aging, two-track tunnel, which must be repaired.
The century-old tunnel is a vital link in the Northeast Corridor, one of the nation’s most heavily traveled stretches of rail, and mostly owned by Amtrak. Biden’s presence in the White House and his well-known affection for rail travel has raised expectations that the project will finally begin to move.
In October, Murphy and Biden broke ground on one piece of the Gateway project, the $1.6 billion replacement of the Portal North Bridge, a century-old swing drawbridge that often gets stuck in the open position and snarls rail traffic.
“You can’t sort of skip over the fact that for a significant part of Murphy’s term, the relationship in terms of support from Washington” was strained, Coscia said.
Other infrastructure projects, like the offshore wind developments in South Jersey, could also boost the state’s economy, Lalevee said. “I think that [Murphy] may be able to leave an indelible mark on New Jersey’s economy and infrastructure.”
After narrowly defending his seat in a campaign against a Republican candidate who went on the attack over affordability and taxes, Gov. Phil Murphy vowed to continue his economic plans for the past four years into his next term.
“We didn’t change our stripes in 2017… and we’re not going to change now,” the Democratic governor said at an event Friday afternoon in New Brunswick.
As of the latest vote count, Murphy won 1.27 million votes, or 50.75%, while Republican former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli won 1.21 million votes, or 48.49%.
Most polls before the election showed Murphy winning by a much larger margin, between eight and 11 points.
Ciattarellli frequently attacked Murphy over issues such as taxes, the high cost of living and doing business, and overall affordability for both businesses and residents in the state. His campaign ads honed in on a 2019 clip of a Murphy comment at Rowan University that “if you’re a one issue voter and the tax rate is your issue, we’re probably not your state.”
“Who says that?” Ciattarelli often followed up with in his campaign ads.
Stronger and fairer
Murphy’s defended those comments, saying the high cost of living brings with it high quality education, transportation and workforce talent pool second-to-none.
The first-term Democrat, who’s often touted making New Jersey a “stronger and fairer” state, said he’s been able to focus on both areas during his first term.
“We’re pragmatic, pro-growth progressives,” the governor said. The implication “that all we focus on is fairer,” the governor continued, is not true. “The stronger part means growing the economy, and we’re equally committed.”
In the weeks leading up to the election, the governor notched several business wins, which he used as evidence that his economic agenda is paying off.
The relocation of fintech giant Fiserv to Berkeley Heights, which state officials said would add 2,000 jobs; the HAX accelerator in Newark with a potential 2,500 jobs; Netflix’s interest in using the old Fort Monmouth army base as a film and TV production facility; and Amazon’s plans to use office space in Jersey City were all offered as evidence of the incumbent’s success.
Ciattarelli countered that the state had been picking winners by putting up so much cash in subsidies to lure in these companies.
Tom Bracken, who heads the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, lamented that while the “fairer side was very-well addressed with all the progressive programs,” such as paid sick leave and $15 minimum wage, the other side has been neglected.
“The stronger side – which is building a strong business community so we can achieve the sustainable revenue we need … to pay for all those programs – wasn’t addressed as aggressively,” Bracken said
More than 18 nail-biting hours after the polls closed, Gov. Phil Murphy won reelection by a narrow 20,000-vote margin out of more than 2.4 million votes cast over Republican former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, according to the Associated Press.
“Thank you for saying we need to keep moving forward on our shared journey to a stronger and fairer New Jersey,” Murphy said in his remarks in Asbury Park on Wednesday, hours after the race was called. “In New Jersey, we know how to make forward work from the middle out and the bottom up.”
The results when the AP called the race showed Murphy with 1,210,997 votes while Ciattarelli had 1,191,703. Murphy thus bucked a historical trend during which no Democratic governor had won reelection since 1977.
“If you want to be governor for all of New Jersey, you must listen to all of New Jersey,” the governor added. “So, tonight, I renew my promise to you – whether you voted for me or not – to work every single day of the next four years to keep moving us forward.”
A Ciattarelli campaign official disputed the call. “With the candidates separated by a fraction of a percent out of 2.4 million ballots cast, it’s irresponsible of the media to make this call when the New Jersey Secretary of State doesn’t even know how many ballots are left to be counted, said Communications Director Stami Williams in a tweet.
The two candidates each called it a night at their election watch parties shortly after 1:00 a.m – Murphy at the Asbury Park Convention Center and Ciattarelli at a hotel in Bridgewater – after it became clear that a winner would not be declared that night. Both stressed the importance of patience in waiting until all the votes were properly tallied.
Murphy led Ciattarelli in polls and outpaced him both in spending and fundraising throughout the campaign. But the Ciattarelli camp in Bridgewater was far more festive with an upset victory within sight. In Asbury Park, Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver put out a more resolute message: it’s not over until each vote is counted.
But the result remained in doubt through much of Nov. 3. Still, Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, tweeted at 10:23 a.m. that day that he had “seen enough” to predict that Murphy would prevail in the race.
Ballot counting dragged on through early Wednesday evening, giving Murphy only a narrow victory.
“Young adults, growing families, and seniors who are struggling to get by voted for lower taxes, a focus on affordability, and to ward off anyone who might consider expensive new policies that would make their problems worse,” reads a joint statement issued Wednesday from the New Jersey Senate’s Republican legislators.
“After [Tuesday], it should be clear that whatever mandate Democrats thought they had to govern from the far left no longer exists.”
Trouble in the statehouse
In the 120-seat state Legislature, where Democrats hold a wide majority in both chambers, the party lost several key seats. One of the most powerful officials in the statehouse – Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District – was locked in a close contest against a candidate who raised just $10,000 and spent less than $200. By comparison, in Sweeney’s 2017 reelection bid his Republican challenger was backed by the powerful New Jersey Education Association. The campaign cost $17 million, the most of any state legislative race.
Sweeney’s Republican opponent this time, long-time truck driver Edward Durr, [nearly] unseated one of the strongest allies that South Jersey political powerbroker George Norcross had in the state Legislature.
With the results in doubt, Sweeney cancelled a leadership conference scheduled for Nov. 4, during which the Senate leadership would be decided for the next two-year session, which starts in January.
Meanwhile, Republicans flipped seats in several other districts with some races also too close to call Tuesday evening through Thursday morning.
Business as usual?
Ciattarelli – an accountant by trade and previously the founder of a medical journal – portrayed himself as the Main Street candidate who would push through deregulation for businesses and lower taxes. He has painted Murphy as a wealthy and out-of-touch non-New Jersey native, even poking fun at how the current governor eats pizza.
Murphy in turn touted his “stronger and fairer” New Jersey message, campaigning on first-term accomplishments such as the $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He accused Ciattarelli of being a Trump puppet, who would bring the former Republican president’s “extreme” agenda to the state.
“We are a national leader in raising the minimum wage … In making millionaires pay their fair share to give working families and the middle class a break,” Murphy said Wednesday night. “In proudly being the quintessential pro-union state … In creating a clean energy economy with good jobs.”
Tom Bracken, who heads the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, called the election a “referendum on the state’s slow economic recovery,” which happened under Murphy. “People are feeling economic pain and they want the pain to lessen,” Bracken continued. “The message is: When the smoke clears, we have to address the business climate and taxes.”
Both candidates were criticized by the business leaders for offering few details on how they would improve the state economy and business climate.
Ciattarelli ran on several proposals, including slashing the corporate tax rate and reworking the school funding formula to lower property taxes. But the former would require corresponding budget cuts which he did not publicly identify, while the latter could be bogged down in court.
Ralph Albert Thomas, president and chief executive officer of the state’s accounting trade group the New Jersey Society of CPAs, told NJBIZ last month that while he felt Ciattarelli’s proposals had some meat to them, “he just needs to articulate them more.”
“What we saw is that the recovery has been sluggish. Murphy has not been able to deliver many of the things that voters were expecting of him,” added Dan Cassino, who heads the polling institute at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“Tax reform, fixing NJ Transit – all of the things that impact the business climate – they just haven’t happened.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:04 a.m. EST on Nov. 4, 2021, to include remarks from Gov. Phil Murphy.
Anyone hoping for an answer Wednesday morning on who would be the next governor of New Jersey will be disappointed, as the two major candidates concluded their election night celebrations without a clear winner.
Results showed Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and the Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli less than a percentage point apart with 98% of precincts reporting, but thousands of votes, provisional ballots and mail-in ballots still not counted.
The latest numbers from the Associated Press showed Ciattarelli with 49.7% of the votes and Murphy with 49.6%.
“We’re going to have to wait a little while longer than we hoped,” Murphy said to his supporters in Asbury Park, shortly after midnight. “We’re going to wait for every vote to be counted. That’s how our democracy works.”
Murphy continued that “we’re all sorry that tonight cannot yet be the celebration we wanted it to be. But when every vote is counted – and every vote will be counted – we hope to have a celebration.”
Ciattarelli, holding a lead over Murphy for much of the evening, presided over a more festive atmosphere at his Bridgewater election night watch party.
“I wanted to come out here tonight because I prepared one hell of a victory speech,” Ciattarelli told supporters also shortly after midnight. “I wanted to come out here tonight because we won. But I’m here to tell you that we’re winning.”
The race, in which Murphy had been widely seen as a heavy favorite, rattled the Democratic establishment across the state, with several legislative races in New Jersey trending in the GOP’s direction.
Should Murphy lose, he would fall victim to a historical trend that has limited every New Jersey Democratic governor since 1977 to just one term.
Murphy led Ciattarelli in polls and outpaced him both in spending and fundraising on the campaign trail.
“You know those polls?” Ciattarelli – an accountant by trade and previously the founder of a medical journal – told supporters after midnight. “There’s only one poll that matters.”
Ciattarelli portrayed himself as the Main Street candidate who would push through deregulation for businesses and lower taxes. He has painted Murphy as a wealthy and out-of-touch non-New Jersey native, even poking fun out how the current governor eats pizza.
Murphy has touted his “stronger and fairer” New Jersey message, campaigning on first-term accomplishments such as the $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He accused Ciattarelli of being a Trump puppet, who would bring the former Republican president’s “extreme” agenda to the state.
In Gloucester County, the state Senate’s most powerful official, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, holds a thin lead over Republican challenger Ed Durr, who according to media reports had only raised $10,000 – and spent $153 – for his campaign.
The two Democratic Assembly Members in the 3rd District, including Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair John Burizchelli, are trailing their Republican challengers.
Several state lawmakers eyeing an ascension to the state Senate, including Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker, 16th District, and Vince Mazzeo, 2nd District, also risk losing to their Republican challengers, as does Sen. Vin Gopal, 11th-Distrcit, one of the youngest members of the state Legislature.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story indicated that Republican legislative candidate Ed Durr had only raised a few hundred dollars for his campaign; that was incorrect. Durr raised $10,000, but only spent the few hundred dollars, the story was updated at 10:40 a.m. EST on Nov. 3, 2021.
After months of campaigning, most New Jersey voters head to the polls on Nov. 2 in a general election to choose a governor, a new Legislature and to decide the fate of two public questions.
The gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia are the main contests nationally this year, and with the country still grappling with the fallout of the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 insurrection, both campaigns have drawn wide interest. Both the Democratic and Republican governors associations have each given millions of dollars to their candidates. The New Jersey race has seen heavy spending by candidates and financing from outside groups.
More 200,000 New Jerseyans voted early this year. For those who have yet to cast ballots here’s a rundown of the big races.
Polls close at 8 p.m. and mail-in ballots must be postmarked by then. Voters can check online for polling locations.
Gov. Phil Murphy vs. Jack Ciattarelli
A first-term Democrat, Murphy is running for reelection. Ciattarelli, an accountant by trade and former state Assemblyman from Somerset County, is trying to unseat the incumbent.
While a Democratic governor in New Jersey hasn’t won reelection since 1977, Murphy held consistent polling leads over Ciattarelli hovering between 8 and 11 points.
Both candidates have crisscrossed the state over the past week, with Murphy holding get-out-the-vote rallies and Ciattarelli pressing the flesh at diners and other local gathering spots.
Ciattarelli has portrayed himself as the Main Street candidate who would push through deregulation for businesses and lower taxes. He has portrayed Murphy as a wealthy and out-of-touch non-New Jersey native.
Murphy has touted his “stronger and fairer” New Jersey message, campaigning on first-term accomplishments such as the $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has painted Ciattarelli as a Trump puppet, who bring the former Republican president’s “extreme” agenda to the state.
Murphy notched several wins in recent weeks, including the location of the HAX accelerator in Newark and fintech giant Fiserv’s announcement that it would bring 3,000 jobs to Union County.
The state Legislature
All 120 seats of the state Legislature – 40 in the Senate and 80 in the Assembly – are up for grabs. Democrats hold both houses, controlling 25 seats in the Senate and 52 seats in the Assembly. That essentially allows them to pick the committee chairs, chamber leadership positions and the most powerful positions in the Legislature: the Senate President and Assembly Speaker.
Two constitutional amendments are on the ballot that would expand the already-lucrative sports-betting market in New Jersey.
One proposal would allow sports wagers to be placed on all collegiate sports including on in-state events like Rutgers football and Seton Hall basketball, as well as any tournaments held in New Jersey. That practice is currently outlawed.
New Jerseyans have had a lukewarm reaction to the proposal. A Stockton University poll shows 51% of voters oppose the proposed expansion of collegiate sports-betting, while a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll shows 39% approval and 41% disapproval for the measure.
Another, lesser-known question allows any nonprofit to use proceeds from games of chance – bingos and raffles – to support their operations. Currently only veterans and senior citizen groups are allowed to do so.
While more than 200,000 New Jerseyans have already voted in this year’s general election, most are heading to the polls Nov. 2. They’re choosing a governor and all 12o members of the state Senate and Assembly.
In this special edition of NJBIZ Conversations, Editor Jeff Kanige spoke with John McWeeney
, the president and CEO of NJBankers, and Michael Affuso, the organization’s executive vice president and director of governmental affairs, about what needs to happen after the election when Trenton gets back to work. McWeeney and Affuso talk about the policies the governor and Legislature should pursue to help the economy grow and businesses succeed. And they discuss the changes coming out of Washington, D.C. and which issues Congress needs to focus on.
The two candidates campaigned feverishly up through this weekend, with Murphy holding dozens of get-out-the-vote rallies across the state, and Ciattarelli hosting dozens of meet-and-greets at diners, eateries and other community-gathering spots.
Spending by outside groups has surged past $39 million, while spending by the two candidates has swelled beyond a combined $46 million.
But despite growing national interest, Murphy still maintains a comfortable lead, suggested Ashley Koning, who heads the Rutgers polling institute.
“If we look at the several statewide polls conducted in the last week, the big picture points to a sizable margin for Murphy that – despite narrowing throughout the campaign – will be difficult for Ciattarelli to overcome in the final days, especially in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 in registration,” said Koning in a prepared statement.
The poll showed that 24% of New Jersey voters were picking their candidate of choice out of opposition for the other candidate, while 18% said the decision was due to party affiliation.
While 79% of voters were aware that the gubernatorial election is tomorrow, only 30% knew about the corresponding legislative race, with all 120 seats up for grabs.
Murphy’s campaign, according to Koning, has done a good enough job trying Ciattarelli to former President Donald Trump that it seems to be working with voters, “as all but one who mention Trump do so as a reason not to vote for Ciattarelli.”
“Voters cite Murphy’s handling of the pandemic as a reason to vote both for him and against him, with a few voters specifically mentioning nursing homes and mask mandates as reasons for their opposition,” she continued.
Ciattarell’s name-recognition, which lagged in the early summer when he won the Republican nomination, has improved since then, and now just 13% of respondents in the Eagleton poll say they’ve never heard of Ciattarelli.
Eagleton relied on the responses of 1,008 New Jersey voters interviewed by phone between Oct. 21 and 27. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
So far, 207,365 New Jerseyans have taken advantage of early voting while another 495,336 people in the state have cast their ballots by mail, according to the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
Independent spending for the Republican and Democratic contenders for New Jersey governor surged to more than $39 million ahead of Tuesday’s election, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
Data released Oct. 29 by New Jersey Election Law Enforcement – the state’s campaign finance watchdog – show independent, outside groups spending $13.4 million for the primaries and nearly $25.2 million for the general election.
That marked a 57% increase since the 2017 gubernatorial election’s independent spending levels, which topped $24.5 million, according to NJELEC.
“For more than a decade, we at ELEC have spoken about the growing influence of these so-called outside or independent groups. This year’s election already has taken it to new heights,” reads a prepared statement issued Friday from Jeff Brindle, who heads the state watchdog.
Voters will head to the polls Nov. 2 to decide whether incumbent Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy deserves a second term, or whether he should be replaced by former state Assemblyman from Somerset County Jack Ciattarelli.
Murphy leads Ciattarelli in every poll that has come out so far, including a nine-point lead in a poll released Friday by Fairleigh Dickinson University.
With the national spotlight turning on this week’s New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races, both Garden State candidates campaigned feverishly up through the weekend and the next day. Murphy has held dozens get-out-the-vote rallies up and down the state, and Ciattarelli has hosted dozens of meet-and-greets at diners, eateries and other community-gathering spots across New Jersey.
Independent spending surged by $4 million in the past week alone, according to the report.
Two of the biggest spenders so far have been the Republican Governors Association, which spent nearly $3.2 million for Ciattarelli, and the Democratic Governors Association, which spent $2.3 million for Murphy.
In fact, just as the NJELEC report was going out, the RGA dropped another $616,764 for the Ciattarelli campaign.
All told, the two candidates have shelled out a combined $46 million – more than double the 2017 election between Murphy and then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno – when a combined $23.8 million was spent.
“With just two governor seats in play this year here and in Virginia, and the seeming tightening of polls in New Jersey, both parties seem to be viewing this as a high stakes race,’’ Brindle said in the report last week.
Both candidates are neck-and-neck with spending. Murphy has raised $16 million and spent $12.5 million, with a $3.5 million reserve. Ciattarelli, meanwhile, has raised $13.1 million and spent $12.4 million, with $685,259 in reserves.
Garden State Forward, the super PAC for the state’s largest teacher’s union, the New Jersey Education Association, spent $5.5 million, giving $3 million to the pro-Murphy super PAC Our NJ and $2.5 million to the DGA-backed group the Committee to Build the Economy.
The DGA meanwhile gave $2 million to Our NJ, which has spent $6.7 million toward Murphy’s reelection bid.
“This is likely tighter than I think any of us expected,” Ashley Koning, who heads the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, said in a phone interview last week.
In recent weeks Murphy has gotten visits and endorsements from several high-profile Democrats, including President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama. And U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent widely considered one of the more left-leaning members of Congress, stumped with Murphy last week at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
There are three other candidates for New Jersey governor: Libertarian nominee Greg Mele, Green Party nominee Madelyn Hoffman and the Socialist Workers Party’s nominee Joanne Kuniansky.
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