Phil and Tammy Murphy
The former Goldman Sachs executive and Ambassador to Germany won by a 56-43% margin (with 92% of the vote in, according to the AP). An indefatigable Happy Warrior presence on the trail, Murphy showed up the doubters and haters with a convincing statewide win. Notably, his wife campaigned with him every step of the way, impressing people as a true partner of the Democratic governor-elect, who kept an exhausting pace on the trail.
With 95%Plus reporting, Murphy won 121,068 votes, or 78%, compared to 28,690 or 18.3% for Guadagno in the county run by Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones, who prevailed on Murphy to pick Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34) as his running mate. Don’t forget, too, that Montclair Democratic Chairman (and Essex Freeholder) Brendan Gill was Murphy’s campaign manager.
Running for reelection in the 3rd District, the Senate President produced the biggest win of his career in his home county of Gloucester, fighting off a challenge of the New Jersey Education (NJEA)-funded Fran Grenier. He also picked up an extra senate seat with Vin Gopal’s victory over state Senator Jennifer Beck, to bulk his caucus up to 25 seats, compared to 15 occupied by the GOP. Finally, Sweeney proved the enduring power and influence of South Jersey, and South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross III.
The pioneering Democrat from the 11th District made history as the first South Asian American to win a state senate seat in New Jersey. He led the way for South Asians who scored considerable victories tonight against a national nativist mood on the heels of last year’s presidential victory by Donald J. Trump. Other South Asian Election Day victors included Ravi Bhalla, who won the Hoboken mayor’s race.
It wasn’t all bad news for Republicans tonight. Amid all the casualties, the Assemblyman from the 2nd District – a Desert Storm veteran and former judge – withstood the Democratic barrage and pulled off a win over Colin Bell to become the senator-elect from the 2nd Legislative District. Standing virtually alone amid the smoldering GOP ruins, Brown is a future statewide star.
Boosted by battleground wins tonight in LD2, LD11 and LD16, the Woodbridge Assemblyman from the 19th District has more than enough votes to become the next speaker. As of this writing, sitting Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) appeared to have missed opportunities to pick up allies in LD25 and LD39. Coughlin’s empowerment signaled the strengthening of Middlesex County. Arguably the smartest man in the legislature, Princeton Plasma Physicist Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) of Middlesex with the win and Roy Freiman drag established himself as a true rising political star.
Under the GOP President’s watch, Republicans lost not just New Jersey – but also Virginia. They went 0 for two on the night. A moderate voice in Congress, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) appears set to announce his retirement, and engaged Democrats won in towns ordinarily not in play, including Parsipanny and Westfield. And the Republican brand killed Council President Jen Giattino in Hoboken. In the words of one Democratic operative, there was less organization this cycle than in many others in New Jersey, much of the end concussive result the sheer result of people coming out to express resistance to the President.
The New Jersey Education Association
Backing a Republican, the NJEA waged the most expensive legislative campaign in state history against Sweeney and lost. The teacher’s union also failed to dethrone Edison Mayor Tom Lankey. Sweeney and Building Trades Prez Bill Mullen kept stressing on Election Day that they didn’t nurse a beef with teachers but with the teachers’ leadership.
Tom Kean, Jr. and Jon Bramnick
The Senate Republican Leader and Assembly Republican Leader took a beating in their home town, with the mayoral victory by 3000 votes of Shelley Brindle in Westfield. There were questions late about whether or not their running mate, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21) had survived the onslaught. She did. She was fine. But it got too close. It hurt. The leaders also took caucus hits. Kean will go from commanding 16 to 15 senate seats (he gained Brown, but lost the 7th seat with the ascent of Senator-elect Troy Singleton) with Gopal’s win over Beck. Bramnick sustained a net lose of at least two seats, maybe more.
The classy Republican Senator from the 11th District who spent years defining herself as an independent brand could not withstand the downward pressure of a toxic Chris Christie, Trump backlash and a changed district. Finally, she lacked the money and organization to match the overwhelming force of her well-connected opponent. What was always tragic was the fact that she had to run against Gopal. The state should have them both. But someone had to lose. Tonight, it was Beck.
The Speaker from Hudson County played for wins in LD39 and LD25 but couldn’t (apparently) pull off the wins. It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. Sweeney’s win over the NJEA in LD3 and the Assembly pickups engineered by former DACC chief Mike Muller in LD2, LD11 and LD16 appear to put the speakership squarely in Coughlin’s lap.
Given the encumbrance of Christie and the turbulence of Trump she made a decent show of it, but finally made the calculation to turn right on sanctuary cities, which finally proved a misread of the times and of New Jersey. She deserves credit for running, and for getting through a tough primary, but in the end she could not sufficiently exploit the undercurrents of Democratic Party fracture most visible in the labor rift between Building Trades and the NJEA. That had always been Christie’s most bankable play for statewide fracture.
We made this list quickly because the cycles of politics in this state don’t last long. Republicans were already delighting in the coming Murphy era. One federal source said he expects Republican incumbents to do well next year on the heels “of Murphy’s tax hikes.”
We will see.
Of only this be assured: InsiderNJ will be there!