In a surprisingly tight race, it appears that Gov. Phil Murphy was reelected to a second term of office. At publication time, he was leading Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli by approximately 2.8% of the vote. However, with mail-in and provisional ballots still being counted, Ciattarelli has yet to concede.
The closeness of the election caught many observers by surprise. Polls, pundits and observers had generally projected Murphy to win by a high single-digit if not double-digit percentage.
Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, upon Murphy’s apparent victory said, “We are confident that the governor will continue to make education a priority, and the NJSBA stands ready to work with him and his administration as we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic and seek to give schools, educators and school officials the tools they need to help every student succeed.”
All 120 seats in the Legislature were also on the ballot last week, and it appears that Democrats lost at least one Senate and six Assembly seats. That possibly includes Senate President Stephen Sweeney. Democrats will still retain the majorities in both houses, although with slimmer margins.
Legislative leadership will look different in 2022 as well. General Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald have been reelected by their caucus. However, the Senate president, Senate majority leader and minority leaders of both houses will be new in 2022.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. chose not to run for reelection, creating a vacancy in both leadership and his Senate seat. Steve Oroho of Sussex County has been elected the new Senate minority leader. In the Assembly, Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who was Kean’s running mate, ran for and won that Senate seat, creating a vacancy in that Assembly leadership position. The Assembly Republicans have chosen John DiMaio of Warren County as their new leader.
The Senate Democratic Caucus has delayed its leadership vote until later this week, pending results of Senate President Sweeney’s race. If he does lose his seat, a new Senate president will need to be chosen. Moreover, Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg is retiring, creating a vacancy in that position. Recent news reports have indicated that Sen. Nick Scutari of Union County has the votes to become the next Senate president. M. Teresa Ruiz, the current Education Committee chair, was in line to become the new majority leader. However, with the Senate presidency still undecided, the situation is fluid.