Republican Jack Ciattarelli takes the lead in NJ governor race

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They didn’t see it coming.

Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli did not emerge victorious on Tuesday night, but he led Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy with enough headroom for his election night seat in Bridgewater to be lit with excitement.

“We want Jack! We want Jack! supporters chanted after the former Somerset County assembly member appeared on stage with his smiling wife; his lieutenant-governor running mate, former state senator Diane Allen; and her husband.

“We want every legal vote to be counted,” Ciattarelli told the crowd.

“We are going to start over,” Ciattarelli promised. “We’re going to declare victory. Guys, hang on with me.”

People applaud the incoming results at Election Night for Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Jack Ciattarelli, held at the Bridgewater Marriott Hotel in Bridgewater, New Jersey on Tuesday, November 2, 2021 (AP Photo / Stefan Jeremiah )

With most early votes, postal votes and in-person votes counted Tuesday night, Ciattarelli led Murphy with 51% of the vote. But enough votes were not counted until Wednesday morning for either side to concede or declare victory.

The scene at Murphy’s headquarters at Asbury Park Convention Hall was more low-key. Murphy, who has presided over the state throughout a deadly pandemic, presented his record of daring progressive causes, including the illegal provision of driver’s licenses to residents of the country, increased taxes on millionaires, the raising the minimum wage (though not immediately to $ 15) and supporting the legalization of marijuana (although potential cannabis users and entrepreneurs are still waiting for the green light.)

“We lead with compassion and empathy and not with fear and despair,” Murphy said after midnight as his children stood behind him. “We follow the science and the facts, not the political winds. We may not always agree, but when we disagree, we sit down and treat each other with respect and understanding. , always looking for common ground. “

Polls leading up to the election showed Murphy to lead in a state with far more Democrats than Republicans. President Joseph Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden and US Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders were among the big names who came to New Jersey to boost Murphy.

“I don’t need celebrities,” Ciattarelli retorted in his election night speech.

Ciattarelli’s campaign has portrayed Murphy as out of touch, criticized Democrats ‘handling of the pandemic, particularly the thousands of deaths in state-run long-term care facilities and veterans’ homes, and has dodged Murphy’s efforts to tie him to former President Donald Trump, who lost New Jersey electoral votes in 2016 and 2020.

Ciattarelli also pledged a softer approach to the pandemic, saying he would not resort to broad mandates on the vaccine.

Ciattarelli said the New Jersey electorate was sending a message to the rest of the country.

“Whenever we’ve gone too far people have pushed and pulled and pushed until he was before,” Ciattarelli said of the state.

The night in New Jersey did not bode well for Democrats, who lost in Virginia, the only other state to be elected governor a year before the congressional midterm election.

Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race of Virginia, tapping into the Culture War fights against schools and the race to unite former President Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters with enough suburban voters to become the first Republican to win a statewide post in 12 years.

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