GOP challenger Jack Ciatarelli in dead heat with Gov. Phil Murphy

The gubernatorial race in New Jersey remained too close to call hours after the polls closed and Tuesday turned to Wednesday as both candidates held off on declaring victory, saying they will wait until “every vote” is counted. 

As votes were counted throughout the evening the Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy and Republican nominee Jack Ciatarelli had a heated back and forth, each leapfrogging another multiple times. 

Despite Ciattarelli’s claims that he was closing in on Murphy, Murphy maintained a steady lead in the campaign. 

Murphy’s lead in the polls led many to believe Tuesday would be an easy win for the incumbent, sparking surprise in many when Ciattarelli held on so long. 

Murphy, 64 years old, was elected governor for New Jersey in 2017. He succeeded Republican Chris Christie. Murphy’s time in office has been marked by his response to the coronavirus pandemic, which many criticized as overbearing — particularly when it came to mask mandates for children. 

Murphy, if he wins, will become the first Democratic governor in New Jersey to be reelected since 1977. 

Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli speaks during a gubernatorial debate with Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy.
Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican challenger, speaks during a debate with the incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy.

From 2011 to 2018, Ciattarelli was the representative of the 16th congressional district in the New Jersey General Assembly. He attempted to run for governor in 2017, but was defeated by Kim Guadagno in the primary.

Taxes emerged as top issue for voters amid the election, with 27 percent of voters naming that as the top issue in a recent Monmouth University poll that Ciattarelli 11 percentage points behind Murphy — 51 percent to 40 percent, as New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country.

Despite Murphy’s huge lead, 39 percent of voters thought Ciattarelli could handle taxes more effectively than Murphy, whereas only 29 percent believed he could. 

While New Jersey waits to see who their next governor will be, Virginia saw Republican Glenn Youngkin upset former governor Terry McAuliffe in the state’s gubernatorial election. 

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