Phil Murphy Wins Reelection As New Jersey Governor In Unexpectedly Close Race After Bad Night For Biden In Virginia – Update

By Ted Johnson, Dominic Patten

Elections 2021
Heather Rousseau/The Roanoke Times via AP

8TH UPDATE, Wednesday, 4:30 PM PT: Some good news for Democrats after an otherwise dismal off-year election night, as Phil Murphy was projected to win reelection as governor of New Jersey.

But his race against Republican Jack Ciattarelli was unexpectedly tight. Murphy was ahead by less than 1 percentage point when the Associated Press called the race on Wednesday afternoon.

Murphy is the first Democratic governor re-elected in more than 40 years in New Jersey. The last Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, was defeated by Chris Christie in 2009.

Meanwhile, some entertainment industry figures reacted to the Democrats’ disappointing results with a mixture of bewilderment, anger and resolve.

Rob Reiner tweeted, “No time for hand wringing and over analyzing Virginia. Pass Infrastructure and Build Back Better. Then focus like a laser on Voting Rights.”


Bette Midler posted a meme.

7TH UPDATE, Tuesday, 9:41 PM PT: “This is the announcement that Joe Biden will not be happy to hear and shows how incredibly divided this country is,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said as the cable newser called the Virginia gubernatorial election for Republican Glenn Youngkin.

While Democrat Terry McAuliffe has not yet conceded his latest bid for his old job, CNN followed MSNBC in pegging Youngkin as the Old Dominion’s new chief executive just before 9:30 p.m. PT. The Associated Press called the race for Youngkin at 9:37 p.m. PT.

Following a trend that was pretty clear for most of the night, Youngkin scored 50.9% of the vote to McAuliffe’s 48.4%. It was a race that was Trump-heavy without the former Celebrity Apprentice host ever campaigning side-by-side with the now Governor-elect.

As well as Youngkin, Virginia has elected it’s first African-American female to statewide office with Republican Winsome Sears taking office as Lieutenant Governor

Certain to be analyzed for its national implications for the current resident of the White House, Youngkin’s victory is looking like manna from heaven for the GOP. Hindered by the specter of Trump, the party now may have found a Gordian Knot to run in sync with the MAGA base without having to run with the heavily tainted Trump himself.

For Youngkin, who ran on an anti-critical race theory and anti-vaccine mandate, the win that seemed improbable just weeks ago in the home of the former capital of the Confederacy came as the New Jersey governor race tightened even further tonight. In fact, MSNBC projected Youngkin the Virginia winner as Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was giving a fight-on speech to supporters.

Caught in a near dead heat with Republican Jack Ciattarelli, Murphy bemoaned that “tonight will not yet be the celebration that we wanted it to be,” and that “when every vote is counted, and every vote will be counted, we hope to have a celebration.”

As President Biden flies back from summit meetings in Europe, Ciattarelli is leading with 50.2% of the vote to Murphy’s 49.0%.

6TH UPDATE, 7:26 PM PT: Terry McAuliffe told supporters, “Let’s count all the votes,” and did not concede the race, but spent his remarks thanking those who helped his campaign.

Glenn Youngkin still holds a significant lead with almost 90% of the votes counted.

The New Jersey governor’s race, which didn’t draw nearly as much attention, also is too close to call. Republican Jack Ciattarelli was leading incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy.

Eric Shawn, Fox News anchor and senior correspondent, said, the New Jersey race “is basically supposed to be a blow-out or at least having incumbent democratic Governor Phil Murphy win by four to six points if not eight points, but it is incredibly tight. The issues that you’re seeing in Virginia tonight are also resonating here in New Jersey. Maybe not as strongly, but they’re still resonating quite loudly.”

5TH UPDATE, 7:10 PM PT: Minneapolis voters rejected a ballot measure to replace the police department with a Department of Public Safety, according to the AP.

The current vote showed that the ballot measure would lose handily.

The proposal would have left it up to the City Council to determine how to structure the new department, to be based on a “comprehensive public health approach.”

4TH UPDATE, 6:32 PM PT: On CNN, Van Jones said of Eric Adams victory in New York’s mayoral race was a sign that “people want common sense responses to violence in the Democratic party.”

“The Defund the Police slogan proved to be not a winner,” he said.

In Minneapolis, a ballot proposal to replace to police department with a Department of Public Safety was losing.

On CBSN, Major Garrett said, “If you had told Democrats six weeks ago that Terry McAuliffe could well lose the Virginia governor’s race, I think they would have said … ‘that would be kind of an earthquake, that would be a very big deal.’ Democrats are trying to say [now], ‘Well it’s not such a big deal, there’s a history and maybe it’s not so bad.’ It seems to me that if it was an earthquake six weeks ago and does happen, it will still be an earthquake.”

3RD UPDATE, 5:31 PM PT: Glenn Youngkin continues to hold a significant lead, as networks focus on his ability to run up the margins in rural areas of Virginia and in the exurbs.

As the votes trickled in, Fox News pounced on an irregularity within minutes in what could be planting a seed if the tight race between McAuliffe and Youngkin moves towards a recount mode.

“Virginia’s Fairfax County Misses 8 PM ET Deadline To Count Early Ballots” exclaimed the Rupert Murdoch-owned outlet on its lower third as Tucker Carlson questioned Brit Hume over what could be happening.

While the visual loudly proclaimed a problem at hand, Hume played down the Fairfax delay. Speaking later from the digital board Bill Hemmer explained to Carlson that officials in Fairfax County had conducted an “early scan” and would be “doing a second scan” soon with at least partial data to be released later from the giant jurisdiction.

As results signaled a GOP victory in Virginia, Cher chimed in, lamenting that Democrats could not prevail even after the Trump-inspired insurrection at the Capitol in January.

2ND UPDATE, 5 PM PT: The race for governor of New Jersey was too early to call as polls closed in that state.

Phil Murphy was seeking re-election against Jack Ciattarelli.

Meanwhile, Republican Glenn Youngkin held a lead over Democrat Terry McAuliffe with about 1/3 of the vote counted.

UPDATE, 4:02 PM PT: Networks passed the 4 p.m. PT mark and deemed the governor’s race in Virginia as too early to call, kicking off coverage of the results of this year’s off-year elections.

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace and Joy Reid chatted about Republican Glenn Youngkin’s emphasis on opposing the teaching of critical race theory in schools; it is not even mandated by the state.

“He’s found a way to launder a pretty racist trope, this idea that we cannot talk about America’s history. It hurts my feelings,” Reid said. “He’s turned that into a campaign. And I think what Democrats have to worry about is if he succeeds and he wins, that is going to be the campaign model for every single Republican that is running.”

Maddow even pointed to Fox News’ focus on the issue, saying that the network’s extensive coverage essentially built Republicans a campaign model.

“They’re building a campaign platform for conservative candidates to run on it everywhere even though it’s not actually taught anywhere, even though it is not a real thing,” Maddow said. She added that “there’s nothing you could pay for in any campaign that would equal the kind of free help you get from that sort of conservative media just firehose on the issue.”

On Fox News, Chris Wallace told Bret Baier that if Democrats had passed more of President Joe Biden’s agenda, “that would have changed the narrative a lot from the failures in Afghanistan, the failures with inflation, the problems at the border. There just hasn’t been a positive Biden and Democratic message that has gone out there, so [Democrat Terry] McAuliffe, instead of having an asset with Joe Biden and his agenda, they have had to kind of carry him like a weight tied to his ankle.”

PREVIOUSLY: As polls begin to close Tuesday in a pair of off-year election races in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as the mayor’s race in New York, cable and broadcast networks are covering the results with shades of 2020.

That is when the presidential race delivered blockbuster ratings. A year later, viewership is down — by a lot — across CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

Much of the coverage today focused on the Virginia governor’s race and the implication that Democrats may very well lose the statehouse, for the first time since 2009. And even though President Joe Biden insisted that he hadn’t seen any evidence that his tenure had “any real impact on winning or losing,” CNN deemed the state a “bellwether” for the midterms.

The networks are bringing out some of the personalities and bells and whistles from last year’s election, which delivered blockbuster numbers. CNN, with a clock counting down to its coverage, is back with the magic wall, while MSNBC plans to feature Steve Kornacki returning to the big board.

The broadcast networks may interrupt programming for results, but they were promoting coverage of the night on their streaming platforms. NBC News NOW is presenting Meet the Press: Election Night, with Chuck Todd and Kristen Welker; CBSN is presenting a special edition of its politics show Red & Blue, with Elaine Quijano anchoring and chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett from New York and senior White House and political correspondent in Virginia; and ABC News Live will feature Linsey Davis anchoring coverage, with World News Tonight anchor David Muir leading the network’s special reports on the results.

Most the attention will be on the Old Dominion, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe is in a tight race to return to the governorship, after serving from 2014 to 2018. Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin has capitalized on coverage of critical race theory, with Fox News devoting 100 segments on it from March through June, according to progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America. Youngkin has claimed that critical race theory has “moved into all our schools in Virginia,” even though Politifact found that claim false and noted that there was no evidence that it was mentioned in the state’s standards of learning.

McAuliffe, however, seemed to blunder at a debate in September when he said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Youngkin’s campaign quickly made an attack ad out of the bite. The context was a discussion over books in schools that contain explicit material or that are politically controversial.

The national implications for the race will be analyzed and re-analyzed over the next few days, as Youngkin’s candidacy, with its focus on education and other cultural flashpoints, is already being viewed as a model to draw in supporters of Donald Trump and recapture moderates who left the party.

Pundits also will point to the race as indicative of party fortunes next year, as Democrats try to defend their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. The victory of Republican Bob McDonnell in Virginia in 2009 was followed by the Democratic shellacking in 2010, and Ralph Northam’s win in 2017 came before Republicans’ loss of the House the next year.

Other races on Tuesday include a race for governor in New Jersey, as Democratic governor Phil Murphy seeks reelection against Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli. Murphy has held a lead in polls.

In New York City, Democrat Eric Adams is expected to sweep the race for mayor against Republican Curtis Sliwa. Voters also will select a successor to Cyrus Vance Jr., with Democrat Alvin Bragg facing Republican Thomas Kenniff.

In Minneapolis, voters will decide whether to replace the police department with a Department of Public Safety. The new department would deliver “a  comprehensive public health approach to be determined by the Mayor and Council,” according to the ballot question.

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