Murphy Wins Governor’s Race, Democrats Pick Up Seats in the Legislature

On Tuesday, November 7th, New Jersey voters elected Democrat Phil Murphy as the next Governor of New Jersey. Mr. Murphy defeated the State’s Republican Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, by a margin of 56% to 42%. All 120 seats in the State Legislature were also on the ballot, and the Democrats retained their majority in both houses. Democrats will pick up one Senate seat and two Assembly seats, bringing their control to 25 seats in the Senate, and 54 seats in the Assembly. Lastly, voters approved two ballot questions related to borrowing for library improvements and the dedication of funds for environmental cleanups.

Governor’s Race

Phil Murphy was the favored candidate from the start of the general election, having outpolled Lieutenant Governor Guadagno by as much as 20 percent in some surveys. This campaign marked Governor-Elect Murphy’s first time running for public office. He is a former Goldman Sachs executive, and the former Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Murphy also served as Ambassador to Germany during President Obama’s first term.

The Murphy campaign focused on three main issues: growing the economy, economic fairness, and investing in New Jersey. Governor-Elect Murphy’s platform included raising new tax revenues through closing corporate loopholes, increasing the income tax on millionaires, and legalizing and taxing marijuana. He also supported a $15 minimum wage, fully funding the State’s school funding formula, and fully funding the State’s pension system.

Legislative Races

There were several highly contested races in key legislative districts throughout the State:

  • Legislative District 3 (Salem, Cumberland, and Gloucester Counties): Incumbent State Senator and current Senate President Stephen Sweeney was victorious over Republican Fran Greiner. This was the most expensive legislative race in New Jersey history, with over $16 million spent by candidates and independent groups. The Assembly seats in Legislative District 3 also remained unchanged with sitting Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro winning reelection.
  • Legislative District 2 (Atlantic County): Incumbent Democratic Senator Colin Bell garnered only 46% of the vote and was defeated by his challenger, incumbent Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown. The Assembly seats in District 2 went to incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and Democratic Buena Vista Township Committeeman John Armato.
  • Legislative District 8 (Burlington County): While incumbent Republican Senator Dawn Marie Addiego defeated her Democratic challenger, her Assembly running mates ended up in races that are within the margin for a potential recount. Less than 800 votes separate the top two candidates, incumbent Republican Joe Howarth and his running mate Ryan Peters, and their Democratic opponents, Joanne Schwartz and Maryann Merlino.
  • Legislative District 11 (Monmouth County): Incumbent Republican Senator Jennifer Beck lost to her challenger, former Monmouth County Democratic chairman Vin Gopal, by a margin of 53% to 47%. Senator-Elect Gopal’s two running mates, incumbent Democratic Assemblypersons Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey, were also victorious on Tuesday.
  • Legislative District 16 (Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset, and Middlesex Counties): Republican Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman successfully defeated Democratic challenger Laurie Poppe. However, Senator Bateman’s running mates, former Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon and current Republican Freeholder Mark Calguire, were unsuccessful in their race against sitting Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker and his running mate, Roy Freiman.

Ballot Questions

New Jersey voters were asked two ballot questions, both of which won approval by a wide margin. Question 1 approved the issuance of $125 million in bonds for the improvement of the State’s library system. Question 2 approved the dedication of funds received from environmental cleanup settlements for those purposes.

Michael D. DeLoreto is an Associate in the Gibbons Government Affairs Department.
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