Democrats have huge night – make significant gains across the region

NorthStar Strategies TrueNorth Insights

Murphy Cruises to Victory

Phil Murphy cruised to a 14-point victory last night and was elected New Jersey’s 56th governor. He began his first day as Governor-elect thanking Manhattan-bound commuters in Hoboken. Murphy attributed his win to Governor Chris Christie’s record and combative style, and cited a backlash against the Trump Administration. Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver becomes the first woman of color to be elected to a statewide office and will be charged with helping Murphy enact a progressive economic and social agenda.

Republican nominee and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was unable to overcome Christie’s atrocious approval ratings and President Trump’s own unpopularity in New Jersey. For months, Murphy enjoyed a substantial lead in polls and ultimately not even a rain-soaked election day could dampen Murphy’s double-digit victory. Guadagno’s running mate Carlos Rendo may have summed it up last night when he told reporters that he and Guadagno “were up against the Christie effect…there’s no question about it. We were up against great odds.”

The Murphy Transition Team will begin work immediately and will be led by Jose Lozano, a veteran of the Obama and Corzine Administrations. Governor-elect Murphy is expected to name Pete Cammarano as his Chief of Staff. Cammarano, the longtime Chief of Staff to former Governor Dick Codey, is a universally respected Trenton insider who will be able to help steer the Murphy agenda. NorthStar will keep you abreast of transition activities over the next days and weeks.

Dems Make Gains in New Jersey Legislature

Nearly all incumbents running for reelection won and Democrats won several open seats to expand their majorities in the Legislature. Several key races had notable outcomes: Former Monmouth County Democratic Chair Vin Gopal ousted veteran incumbent Senator Jen Beck for the District 11 Senate seat, representing much of Monmouth County. The race, which many thought would come down to turnout, went to Gopal who secured over 53% of the vote.

Sitting Senate President Steve Sweeney won convincingly. A Senate President handily winning reelection would not typically make news except that the powerful New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) targeted Sweeney, backing Trump acolyte Fran Grenier and dumping a reported $5 million into the race. NJEA’s decision – which Sweeney called “a waste of money” – stems from disagreements over pension reform legislation.  NJEA’s plan backfired and Sweeney won the most expensive legislative race in New Jersey history by 18 points.

The lone bright spot for Republicans was Chris Brown’s victory for the 2nd District Senate seat. Brown beat Democrat Colin Bell by 8 points and will represent Atlantic County and Atlantic City in the Senate. Bell – technically an incumbent – was selected by Atlantic County Democrats to fill the seat temporarily after the August death of Senator Jim Whelan.

Assemblyman Troy Singleton handily won the 7th District Senate seat vacated by Republican Diane Allen, who is retiring. Singleton’s win, with over 65% of the vote, gives Democrats a one seat pick-up in the Senate and a 25-15 majority in 2018.

Two years ago Democrat Andrew Zwicker won an Assembly seat in the traditionally Republican 16th District which includes portions of Somerset and Mercer Counties. In so doing, he became the Republicans top target this year. Not only did Zwicker win last night in a rematch against former Assemblywoman Donna Simon, but he also brought along his running mate Roy Freiman for good measure. Respected Republican Senator Kip Bateman held onto his Senate seat by a slim margin.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto – facing a leadership challenge from affable Assemblyman Craig Coughlin – made a play for traditionally Republican districts in a bid to unseat incumbents and install Democrats supportive of his continued Speakership.  Prieto directed campaign cash to District 39 (Bergen & Passaic Counties) and District 25 (Morris & Somerset Counties) but came up short as all four incumbents prevailed.

Check out the final results from individual New Jersey races here.

New Jersey Mayors Races

Several high profile mayors races were decided last night. In Hoboken, Councilman Ravi Bhalla – outgoing Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s hand-picked successor – defeated five other candidates and becomes the city’s first Sikh leader. City Council Speaker Jen Giattino placed third but could not overcome the statewide Democratic wave.

In Atlantic City, Councilman Frank Gilliam narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Don Guardian and hopes to work with the Murphy Administration to end the State’s takeover of the city.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop – who contemplated a run for governor before Phil Murphy’s ascendancy – won reelection in convincing fashion, securing 78% of the vote.

New York Round-up

Big wins by Democrats were not limited to New Jersey. New York City and its outlying suburbs saw significant gains as well.

Bill de Blasio Handily Wins Reelection

In an election for Mayor that was marked by low turnout (possibly because the race was never perceived as close), Mayor Bill de Blasio won reelection with 66% of the vote. He becomes the first Democratic Mayor in over three decades to win reelection. De Blasio will not wait for his second term to officially start before continuing his push to enact a tax on the wealthy to fund repairs to the City’s beleaguered transit system.

NYC’s Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer, both 2021 mayoral aspirants, also won, as did the five borough presidents: Queens’ Melinda Katz, Manhattan’s Gale Brewer, Staten Island’s James Oddo, Brooklyn’s Eric Adams, and Ruben Diaz Jr. of the Bronx.

New York Suburban Power Shift

Democrats scored key wins in New York City suburbs last night, bolstering claims by party leaders that they will make big gains with Donald Trump in the White House. Democratic State Senator George Latimer defeated incumbent Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino by 14 points and dealt a serious blow to the future political prospects of the 2014 Republican nominee for governor against Andrew Cuomo. In Long Island’s Nassau County, Democrat Laura Curran appears to have knocked off former State Senator Jack Martins for the County Executive post that is currently held by a Republican. Martins has not conceded but Curran is up 51-48%. Both contests would return the county executive offices to Democrats after Republicans won them in 2009.

Find final results on individual New York races here.