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CBS News projects New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wins close reelection race

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wins reelection
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wins reelection 06:59

CBS News has projected that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will win a second term. He is the first Democratic governor to win reelection since 1977, but Murphy's thin margin of victory, currently about one point, in what was considered a safe blue state is raising red flags for Democrats around the country.

"I am humbled to be the first Democratic governor reelected in the great state of New Jersey since my dear friend, the late Governor Brendan Byrne did this in 1977," Murphy told supporters in Asbury Park on Wednesday night. "Thank you for putting your trust in our team for another four years. Thank you for saying we need to keep moving forward on a shared journey to a stronger and fairer New Jersey."

Murphy largely ran on his record for handling the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted other first-term accomplishments, like raising the minimum wage, enacting a tax on wealthy New Jerseyans, expanding paid family leave benefits, increasing funding for public schools and providing more access to pre-K.

The slim margin highlights the continued divide over Murphy's handling of the pandemic and some of those first-term accomplishments that he highlighted throughout his campaign. 

Jack Ciattarelli, meanwhile, largely focused his campaign on New Jersey's high taxes. Murphy has pledged to not raise taxes during his second term. But some Democrats have questioned whether Murphy did enough to paint a clear vision about what he wants to accomplish in his second term. 

Murphy's victory was significantly closer than President Biden's 16-point victory in New Jersey in 2020. While Ciattarelli closed that gap, he was not able to overcome Murphy's high approval ratings — 52% in a recent Monmouth University poll — or the disadvantage inherent in the numbers: New Jersey has about a million more registered Democrats than Republicans. 

At this point, Ciattarelli is not ready to concede the election. "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," his campaign said in a statement.  

While Murphy is on track to get more votes than he did in 2017, solid GOP turnout kept the race close. Democrats expected a closer race than four years ago, but one Democratic strategist told CBS News, "nobody really expected this." 

On Capitol Hill, Congressman Bill Pascrell, who represents northern New Jersey, blamed his own party for infighting that has stalled President Biden's agenda.

"These results should be an alarm clock rousing us from sleep," Pascrell said in a statement. "We are in charge. If we don't deliver then we won't deserve to govern."

Ciattarelli's strong performance at the top of the ticket also led to victories for other Republicans on the ballot at the state legislative level, where GOP state lawmakers are set to pick up several seats. New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the second most powerful person in state politics, may lose his seat to truck driver Edward Durr as part of solid GOP gains in south New Jersey. Durr told Politico that he believes he spent less than $10,000 on his race. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Holds Election Night Party
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during an election night event at Grand Arcade at the Pavilion on November 2, 2021 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  Mark Makela/Getty Images

Republicans also saw big boosts in turnout in some of their strongest counties compared to the 2017 gubernatorial race. 

In Ocean County, about 208,000 ballots were cast, with Ciattarelli leading Murphy by 37 points. In 2017, about 154,000 people voted in the county and Republican Kim Guadagno won by 26 points. 

In Monmouth County, turnout was about 214,000. Ciattarelli leads Murphy in the county by 23 points. Four years ago, about 179,000 people voted and Republicans won the county by 12 points. 

New Jersey does not have automatic recounts. Ciattarelli has up to 17 days after the election to request a recount in the race. A group of ten voters can also request a recount. The requester has to pay for the recount and a partial recount can be requested. 

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