By Bobby Liberatos ’24
New Jersey is the location of one of the only two scheduled governor’s races in the U.S this November. Americans will be scanning the results for insights about the nation’s political climate, just shy of a year into President Joe Biden’s term.
Incumbent Democratic governor Phil Murphy is running for a second term to be the face of the Garden State’s opponent, former state assemblyman, Jack Ciattarelli who is running for Republicans. New Jersey has a mild Democratic lean in presidential elections, but it has elected Republicans as governor before, one as recently as 2013.
The major nationwide political themes of today’s time have emerged repeatedly over the course of the campaign. Ciattarelli has used the rise in crime during 2020 in New Jersey to attack Phil Murphy and slammed him over his mask mandate in schools. Murphy in contrast has touted his handling of the pandemic as a “national model”. Specifically, he says that all his actions have been guided by science and were appropriate for the situation. The AP sums it up by saying that “Murphy’s agenda”which has led the state to “take a decidedly liberal shift….will be on the ballot.”
So far, polling of the race has generally found the state’s partisan lean bearing out for Murphy as the most recent poll by Stockton University finds him out front by nine points. Political heavy-hitters know the weight of this race. Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna Romney McDaniel, was in South Jersey in Mid-October and on October 23rd Barack Obama arrived in the state to aid fellow Democrat Murphy.
If Ciattarelli scores an upset, it will send shivers down Democrat’s spines ahead of the midterms in 2022, when control of Congress will be determined. If Democrats can’t win in a blue state, they will likely face even tougher headwinds in key swing-states next year. On the other hand, a Murphy win would calm down Democrats that are spooked by the potential ramifications of President Biden’s low approval rating on down ballot Democrats.