US news outlets said that with around 90 percent of the votes counted from Tuesday’s local election Governor Phil Murphy had 50.1% of the votes, against 49.1% for the Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli. That works out to a margin of about 20,000 votes out of a total of 2.4 million that were cast.
“It’s a surprise because the polling suggested that Governor Murphy was anywhere between eight-12 points ahead,” said Saladin Ambar, a political science professor at Rutgers University.
In the 2020 presidential election Biden won 58% of the votes in New Jersey against 40% for Donald Trump. In 2017 Murphy was first elected with 56%.
Ambar said he saw both local and national issues at play in the state, which borders New York. The last Democratic governor to be reelected by New Jersey voters was in 1977, he noted.
“It’s very difficult in a state where taxes and particularly property taxes are such a big issue for Democrats to do well in consecutive elections as governors,” Ambar told AFP.
He said Murphy suffered from Biden’s unpopularity and the president’s struggle to push his vast spending plans through Congress amid prolonged infighting in the Democratic Party.
“There is this sense that what Biden was able to achieve or not achieve with Congress hurt Governor Murphy,” Ambar said.
In the biggest setback in Tuesday’s elections, a Republican businessman with no experience in elected office defeated a former Virginia Democratic governor in the state, which Biden won handily in 2020.
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