Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly defeats Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli to win reelection in New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly defeats Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli to win reelection in New Jersey
Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J. speaks during a gubernatorial debate with Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli at Rowan University's Pfleeger Concert Hall Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in Glassboro, N. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, Pool
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy won a 2nd term against Republican Jack Ciattarelli.
  • Ciattarelli, a businessman and former GOP lawmaker, ran a surprisingly close race.

What's at stake:

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly beat Republican challenger Jack Ciatterelli to win a second term in office.

New Jersey and Virginia held gubernatorial elections in 2021, making Murphy and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe the most powerful Democrats to face statewide contests since President Joe Biden took office in January.

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, was elected in 2017 to succeed former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who served two terms in the governor's office. And while New Jersey is now solidly Democratic on the presidential level, that trend hasn't extended to state-level offices, as evidenced by the incredibly narrow margin between the candidates this year. Murphy is the first Democratic governor since 1977 to win a second term in New Jersey.

Like McAuliffe in Virginia, Murphy sought to paint his Republican opponent as an extension of former President Donald Trump, who lost New Jersey by 16 percentage points in the 2020 election and is highly unpopular in the state.

"Do we stand with our sacred democracy, or do we stand with Confederate flags and white supremacists in a pack of lies?" Murphy said at a debate with Ciattarelli earlier this month. He was referring to Ciattarelli's attendance at a "Stop the Steal" rally in late November last year, after Trump lost the election to Biden.


Former President Barack Obama, who campaigned for Murphy in Newark, New Jersey, over the weekend of October 23, also took aim at Ciattarelli for attending the rally.

"Apparently Phil's opponent says he didn't know it was a rally to overturn the results of the last election," Obama said, "He didn't know it? Come on. When you're standing in front of a sign that says 'Stop the Steal' and there's a guy in the crowd waving a Confederate flag, you know this isn't a neighborhood barbecue. You know it's not a League of Women Voters rally. Come on. Come on, man. That's not what New Jersey needs."

Ciattarelli, meanwhile, sought to cast himself as more moderate by voicing his support for Roe v. Wade and for undocumented immigrants obtaining driver's licenses.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Ciattarelli said that "we will codify it here in New Jersey."

"I support a woman's right to choose," he added, though he said he opposes the Reproductive Freedom Act pending in the state legislature and said he believes it's too extreme.


And while he's criticized Murphy's position on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Ciattarelli also underscored that he's not in the same camp as more hardline Republicans.

"I'm not where Phil Murphy is" on COVID-19 measures, "but I'm certainly not where Ron DeSantis is," Ciattarelli said in a recent interview with the USA Today Network New Jersey Editorial Board.