New Jersey‘s incumbent Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is finding himself falling behind his Republican challenger on Tuesday as voters decide who will next lead the Garden State.
As of Tuesday night Murphy is trailing former state lawmaker Jack Ciattarelli by less than two per cent, with more than 30 per cent of the state reporting, according to the New York Times.
However it’s not clear how long that slim lead will last, as the majority of the counties already reported are red areas.
Polls closed in New Jersey at 8pm Eastern Time.
Murphy had long been expected to win, polling more than 10 points ahead of former state lawmaker Jack Ciattarelli in a Monmouth University survey released just last week.
But a Democratic governor hasn’t won re-election in New Jersey since 1977.
The state has been reliable for Democrats on the national stage, having gone blue every presidential election since Bill Clinton won in 1992.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans there by roughly one million voters.
It’s also the only other state besides Virginia to hold a gubernatorial election the year after a presidential race.
For the last five times Americans elected a new commander-in-chief, New Jersey has elected a governor of the opposite party.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks to volunteers as he meets with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka during the gubernatorial election in Newark on Election Day (November 2)
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy shakes hands with Baraka as they greet volunteers during the gubernatorial election in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., November 2
Murphy rose to power after Donald Trump took the White House, and similarly Republican Chris Christie was elected to state office in 2009 after Barack Obama’s historic victory.
Ciattarelli had largely focused his campaign on New Jersey’s property taxes – some of the highest in the the country.
Instead of arguing the fact, Murphy sought to make the case to voters that the high penalties deliver more bang for their back.
‘That means the best public schools in America. It means among the best health care systems in America. It means a location second to none that we need to invest aggressively in,’ Murphy told a local NPR station about New Jersey taxes.
Murphy served in the Obama administration as US Ambassador to Germany and successfully beat Christie’s former lieutenant governor to lead the Garden State in 2017.
And his old boss joined him on the campaign trail this time around. Barack Obama stumped for Murphy in Newark, New Jersey in late October to kick off the state’s first in-person early voting period in its history.
New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli participates in a campaign event with local residents on October 27, 2021 in Hoboken, New Jersey
Rep. Jim Clyburn, who played a large role in Biden securing the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, also appeared for Murphy at a Sunday ‘souls to the polls’ event the following day.
First Lady Jill Biden, who grew up in New Jersey, stumped for Murphy as well.
He’s also accepted help from the progressive wing, hosting Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders for a campaign rally last month.
Ciattarelli, a Republican, has been careful to keep a distance between himself and Trump in order to appeal to suburban voters in the densely-packed Garden State.
The businessman had bested more pro-Trump Republicans in the GOP primary race.
He also bashed Trump for criticizing late Secretary of State Colin Powell a day after his death and congratulated Biden on his 2020 election victory.
But Murphy and his team worked to paint him as a follower of the former president’s, citing a November 2020 appearance at a Stop the Steal rally. Ciattarelli has said he was unaware that was the event’s purpose.
Murphy’s passed a number of popular reforms during his time leading New Jersey, including tuition-free community college for low-income students.
He’s also signed into law steadily increasing New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 by 2024.
Late last month Murphy landed in hot water when his campaign staff were caught on video telling an undercover Project Veritas reporter about a potential statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate after winning re-election.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy gives a thumb up to volunteers and media on Election Day