Kitchen table issues, like education, the economy, and COVID-19 mandates, drove the agenda Tuesday night, as voters in both Virginia and New Jersey flocked to their polling places to cast their ballots.
Both Democratic candidates Terry McAuliffe and Phil Murphy nationalized their respective campaigns, purposely ignoring local issues, while also invoking the name of former president Donald Trump at almost every campaign stop. They latched on to big name political Democratic heavyweights like Obama, Biden, Sanders and Harris, while also out spending their Republican rivals, in some instances by a whopping 7 to 1, in New Jersey.
Although the race in Virginia became the bellwether for what may lie ahead in 2022, New Jersey shocked Democrats to the core, in that Murphy was predicted to easily beat Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by about 9 percentage points.
The fact that it’s a nail biter Wednesday morning with Ciattarelli still holding a slight lead and with almost 90% of the votes counted, is a testament to how Ciattarelli (like Youngkin), focused on local issues. Such as higher taxes, restrictive Covid-19 mandates, along with over 30% of small businesses permanently closing within the Garden State because of Murphy’s draconian decrees.
A confident Ciattarelli took to the podium in the wee hours proclaiming; “We’ve sent a message to the entire nation. This is what I love about this state: 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.”
The state we love is broken, and we need a governor who can fix it. We can move beyond Phil Murphy's failed leadership starting right now. I ask for your support this Election Day. We can fix New Jersey, together. pic.twitter.com/LwGyKLVYWJ— Jack Ciattarelli (@Jack4NJ) October 25, 2021
Up until Tuesday, New Jersey was a solid blue state, with an advantage of having over 1-million more registered Democratic voters. However, in the final days of the campaign, Murphy, like McAuliffe, decided to campaign with a well known political figure, choosing of all people, Democratic/Socialist Bernie Sanders. The optics of the two standing on stage sent shockwaves across the Garden State for many traditional Democrats, who apparently began to re-evaluate their vote for Murphy on Tuesday, and decided to pull the lever for Ciattarelli instead.
A solemn Murphy also made a brief appearance at his campaign headquarters late Tuesday night.
“We’re all sorry that tonight cannot yet be the celebration we wanted it to be. But when every vote is counted, and every vote will be counted, we hope to have a celebration.”
Ciattarelli, a former accountant and businessman, has been involved in New Jersey state politics for decades and served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 2011 to 2018. He ran for New Jersey governor in 2017 and came in second place in the primary.
Few in the national media focused on New Jersey, believing that the state would remain a Democratic stronghold, ignoring the same ‘Bread and Butter’ issues that voters in Virginia were facing. Ciattarelli, however, traveled the state listening to the people worrying about higher property taxes, (the highest in the nation), illegal immigration, spiking crime rates, mask and vaccine mandates, and of course what was being taught in New Jersey’s public schools.
When asked by a local news reporter about teaching critical race theory in schools, Ciattarelli quickly responded, “We are not going to teach our children to feel guilty.”
Regardless of whether Ciattarelli can maintain his slight lead, one thing is certain; New Jersey can no longer be taken for granted, and that’s a good thing!
Notice: This article may contain commentary that reflects the author's opinion.
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