Nov 3 (Reuters) – Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy won a second term, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, a day after polls closed in an election that proved an unexpected nail-biter for the incumbent.
Murphy, 64, is the first Democratic governor in four decades to win re-election in New Jersey, even though registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in the Northeast U.S. state by more than 1 million.
He has overseen a shift to the left in the state, including new taxes on millionaires, stricter gun restrictions, a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave. He has also defended his robust approach to the coronavirus pandemic, including mandating masks in schools.
Ciattarelli, 59, a former state lawmaker, had focused much of his campaign on the state’s high taxes, while accusing Murphy, a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive, of being out of touch with the electorate.
He has also criticized Murphy for requiring masks in schools and daycare facilities.
New Jersey has trended steadily Democratic in recent years. The party won 10 of the state’s 12 U.S. House of Representatives seats in 2020, and President Joe Biden carried the state over then-President Donald Trump last year by more than 15 percentage points.
Still, Ciattarelli’s unexpectedly strong performance in New Jersey, and the Republican victory on Tuesday in Virginia’s gubernatorial race spelled trouble for Biden’s party heading into next year’s congressional elections. read more
Murphy trailed overnight in the returns but squeaked into the lead on Wednesday morning as the tabulation of the vote unfolded in several heavily Democratic counties.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Peter Cooney
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