A few days ago, I wrote about how Republican Glenn Youngkin pulled off a major upset by defeating Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election. Such a feat was unfathomable as just last year, Joe Biden won that state by 10.1 percentage points. And yet, Youngkin managed to win the race by a 2.5 point margin, effectively a 12.6 point swing to the right. Not only did the Republicans win the governorship, but they also captured the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General positions and retook control of the House of Delegates.
While Youngkin's victory was the most newsworthy event of November 2, the Republicans made a lot of noise nationwide everywhere else, too. In this article, I want to focus attention to New Jersey. Many people, including me, wrote off the gubernatorial election between Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli. After all, Joe Biden won the state last year by an even wider margin than in Virginia by nearly 16 percentage points; Senator Cory Booker got reelected by almost the same margin; and RealClearPolitics projected Murphy to win by a 7.8 point margin. Easy victory, right? Not so fast. Although he won (allegedly), the actual margin was much smaller. On top of that, Murphy's party did not fare so well down ballot. What happened?
Ciattarelli Made Murphy Sweat
According to RCP, Murphy beat Ciattarelli by a 2.6 point margin. Its projected margin was off by 5.2 points which falls beyond the usual +/- 3% margin of error. Not only that, but assuming the margin is true beyond a doubt, that would mean New Jersey has swung to the right by a substantial 13.4 points. Sure, Murphy ultimately got reelected. However, considering how Ciattarelli led Murphy throughout Nov. 2 evening and how small the margin was, there's no guarantee the Democrats will win the governor race in 2025.
Compared to Kim Guadagno in 2017 (top), Jack Ciattarelli won more counties with the blue counties becoming less blue (bottom).
One county that was rather intriguing was Passaic County. While Murphy won more votes, it became way less blue than it used to be back in 2017. In fact, while around 80% of the votes were tallied, it looked like Ciattarelli was on the cusp of flipping it. This is rather significant because Passaic County has a very significant Hispanic population. Towns and cities such as Passaic, Paterson, Haledon, Clifton, and Woodland Park have Hispanic populations that range from ~20% to ~60%.
Senior Elections Analyst of RCP, Sean Trende, shared an interesting map portraying how much Passaic County shift since 2017 and 2020:
Since 2017, all of the towns and cities of Passaic County shifted towards the right with many of them greatly so (>10% swing). A mere year after the 2020 election, the vast majority of the county shifted right. While Passaic and Paterson remained neutral, towns with large Hispanic populations such as Clifton, Woodland Park, and Haledon still swung.
Putting it all together, the McAllen, Texas mayoral election, Virginia elections, and the New Jersey gubernatorial elections demonstrate the Democrats are loosing the Hispanic voters. Considering how Biden is deeply underwater on issues that Hispanic voters care about such as immigration and the economy, there's little reason to believe that the trend will stop.
Also, it does not seem the gubernatorial race is fully resolved... (Check out Deejo's article on that).
2nd Most Powerful NJ Politician Defeated by... a Truck Driver
While the gubernatorial race turned people's heads, arguably the highlight of Nov. 2 in New Jersey was the state senatorial election between incumbent state senate leader Steve Sweeney and truck driver Edward Durr.
It was a quintessential David vs. Goliath race. Sweeney has been a state senator since 2002 and the President of the NJ State Senate since 2010. Needless to say, Sweeney was the longest serving state senator in New Jersey history and had tons of not just money, but also political capital. And yet, Durr managed to defeat the kingpin by about a 4 point margin on a campaign budget smaller than $10,000.
A humble commercial truck driver, Durr was considered an afterthought. How could a nobody blue collar worker with no political experience unseat an absolute juggernaut that held the state's second most powerful position? Well, he did the work. He went door-to-door, talked with his constituents directly, and addressed issues that hit home the hardest such as higher taxes, increasing debt and the rising cost of living. While he was not the most well-spoken person and his ads did not have great production value, that actually provided a breath of authenticity.
Durr's victory will also have huge ramifactions in the state legislature. The state senate president "decides what bills are voted on in the Legislature’s upper chamber and which of the governor’s nominees receive confirmation hearings" (NJ.com). With Sweeney out of the picture after 11 years, the dynamics in the legislative branch will undoubtedly be different and Murphy may have a more difficult time pushing his agenda.
Closing Thoughts: Blue States are Now In Play
If you were to tell me a mere 2 weeks ago that Youngkin would win the Virginia gubernatorial race, Ciattarelli would be within striking distance, and a random truck driver would defeat a career politician, I would've called you crazy. And yet, here we are and the numbers don't lie. Not only that, but the New Jersey Republicans netted some notable wins down ballot. They picked up 8 seats in the General Assembly. 19-year old Nicholas Seppy unseated incumbent Terre Alabarda in the Egg Harbor Township school board election by 17 points with a student-centric, anti-lockdown campaign.
What happened in Virginia and New Jersey tells me one thing: the blue states are now in play. Because Joe Biden and the Democrats have stumbled on the issues that affect American citizens the most directly such as the economy, even residents of blue states have begun to push back. When employers cannot find workers, the unemployed give up seeking jobs, and inflation outpaces wage growth, the everyday people feel it. To reiterate from my previous article, these races should be a major wake up call to the Democrats that they need to change their stances. To insist on continuing the same tactics while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.