Huge Recall Upset: New Jersey Gov. Race May Be Too Close to Call, Democrats Scrambling


In what might be the biggest stunner of the 2021 election, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, and his Republican rival, Jack Ciattarelli, have been trading the lead in the gubernatorial race throughout the day Wednesday.

As of 12:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday, RealClearPolitics reports that Murphy, with 1,201,420 votes (49.9 percent), now tops Ciattarelli who has 1,186,337 votes (49.3 percent), a difference of 15,083 votes. At midday, Ciattarelli led by over 1,100 votes.

This is remarkable in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 1.1 million.

Clearly, this race is too close to call, and it’s impossible to predict who will prevail. Townhall’s Guy Benson spoke to the state’s former Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday morning. Christie told him, “Every pollster was wrong. This is likely to be a recount race, either way … There’s a very legitimate chance Jack could win this.”

Benson noted that Christie was “concerned about data discrepancies in reported totals & haziness on where outstanding votes are.” I think that’s a concern many of us share.

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According to New Jersey state law, candidates have to a period of 17 days to request a recount of votes.

The most amazing thing about this race is that the results were never expected to be this close.

Were you surprised that Ciattarelli came this close in his race against Murphy?

The RealClearPolitics average of polls suggested that Murphy would prevail by 7.8 points. In fact, not a single survey, since polling began in May, had shown Ciattarelli ahead of the governor.

A poll from the Trafalgar Group released on Monday showed the race had tightened, but Ciattarelli still trailed Murphy by a little over four points. This result fell outside the poll’s margin of error of three points.

The Ciattarelli campaign claimed their internal polling had indicated the two candidates were locked into a dead heat, which frankly, I interpreted as false bravado. I was wrong. And I don’t think I was the only one.

Both candidates spoke to supporters shortly after midnight to say there would be no decision in the race until all provisional and vote-by-mail ballots were counted.

The New York Times reported that Murphy, speaking from Asbury Park’s Convention Hall, said, “We’re all sorry that tonight could not yet be the celebration that we wanted it to be. But as I said: When every vote is counted — and every vote will be counted — we hope to have a celebration again.”

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From his headquarters in Bridgewater, Ciattarelli told supporters, “We have sent a message to the entire country. But this is what I love about this state, if you study its history: Every single time it’s gone too far off track, the people of this state have pushed, pulled and prodded it right back to where it needs to be.”

This may have been a reference to an interesting fact about Democratic governors in the state of New Jersey. According to the Associated Press, since 1977, not a single one of them has won reelection.

President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump last November by nearly 16 points in this deep blue state.

But Gov. Murphy has become very unpopular for his tax increases, which have brought the state the dubious distinction of being the highest taxed state in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported that the average New Jersey resident will pay “$931,000 in taxes over a lifetime.”

The governor has also been severely criticized for his handling of COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The Times, the “defining issue” in this campaign was Murphy’s leadership during the pandemic.

Murphy, like former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had a nursing home scandal of his own, yet he has largely escaped responsibility for it. A New Jersey government oversight group, Sussex County Watchdog, claims that over half of the state’s 28,000 COVID deaths came from nursing facilities and veterans homes.

The Times also reported that Murphy was “one of the last governors to repeal an indoor mask mandate and among the first to require teachers to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing.”

Ciattarelli used Murphy’s heavy-handed management of the pandemic against him during the campaign, blaming his “early lockdown orders for hurting small businesses and keeping students out of school for too long,” according to The Times.

Murphy, as every Democrat does, tried to tie his opponent to Trump. As it turned out, that association didn’t appear to hurt candidates in this election cycle.

Anti-Biden sentiment, however, contributed to the close results. Perhaps even some Democrats are waking up to how far the pendulum has swung in one direction.

Lest you think that progressives will hear the message voters sent on Tuesday, and possibly moderates, that might be a bridge too far. Here’s an MSNBC headline from Wednesday morning: “Glenn Youngkin’s victory proves white ignorance is a powerful weapon. Virginia’s new Republican governor won his race by stoking outrage over critical race theory.”

They may be surprised to find that the liberal’s default, racial rhetoric, has lost its power.

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Elizabeth writes commentary for The Western Journal and The Washington Examiner. Her articles have appeared on many websites, including MSN, RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist and RealClearPolitics. Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Elizabeth is a contract writer at The Western Journal. Her articles have appeared on many conservative websites including RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist,, HotAir, MSN and RealClearPolitics.

Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter.