Murphy declares victory before final count: ‘The future looks like NJ’
ASBURY PARK — Saying that he would be remembered not by how many votes he won but by what his administration accomplishes, Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday declared victory after an election night that had ended in a statistical tie.
Hours after The Associated Press projected Murphy had won re-election based on the remaining number of votes to be counted, the Democrat once again took to the stage in Asbury Park, this time more with more confidence.
"I am humbled to be the first Democratic governor re-elected in the great state of New Jersey since my dear friend, the late Gov. Brendan Byrne did this in 1977. Thank you, New Jersey!" Murphy told the cheering crowd.
Republican Jack Ciattarelli has not conceded and noted that the state does not know the exact number of votes to be counted.
Even if Ciattarrelli does not end on top, Republicans had one of their best electoral showings in years with more than a half-dozen expected victories in the Legislature, including the shocking defeat of state Senate President Steve Sweeney by an unknown newcomer who spent just a few hundred dollars on his campaign.
Less than a percentage point separated the two candidates on Wednesday after most counties had counted mail-in ballots received by Election Day, early votes and Election Day machine votes. Still to be counted are provisional ballots and mail-in ballots that will trickle into county clerks' offices in the days to come.
But the Murphy campaign was confident that the remaining ballots would shake out in their favor based on the political affiliations of the voters who had requested to vote by mail in the counties that still had the most uncounted or unreturned ballots.
Taking the stage about 10:30 p.m., Murphy rattled off a list of progressive accomplishments during his first term, including raising taxes on millionaires, protecting funding to Planned Parenthood, expanding pre-K and family leave, implementing policies to make child care and college more affordable, and relying on science to guide his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed as many as 28,000 residents.
"If you want to know what the future looks like, folks, come to New Jersey. If you want to know where America is heading, look to New Jersey," he said. "And if you want to be a governor for all of New Jersey, you must listen to all of New Jersey — and New Jersey, I hear you."
Murphy promised to lead the state forward by "rejecting divisiveness and chaos that permeate through too much of our politics."
He ended his short speech by dancing on stage with Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and state Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones.
Speaking on NJ PBS, Ciattarelli campaign manager Eric Arpert called Murphy's victory speech "premature" because "these numbers are fluctuating."
"Count all the votes, then we'll know who won," he said.