Incumbent Democratic governor of the U.S. state of New Jersey Phil Murphy was reported Wednesday by U.S. media to have won a second term, edging out Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli by a less-than-one-point margin.
The Associated Press called the election, which had been a nail-biter throughout Election Night on Tuesday, for Murphy, projecting that the former Goldman Sachs executive won by a 50-49.2 margin with 90 percent of precincts reporting. Murphy became the state's first Democratic governor to win re-election since 1977.
During his campaign, Murphy cast himself as an effective manager during the COVID-19 pandemic, while tying his opponent to former U.S. President Donald Trump, who lost to Joe Biden by more than 15 percentage points in New Jersey in the 2020 presidential election.
A former state assemblyman who had been taking the lead for much of the night by a razor-thin margin, Ciattarelli kept Trump at arm's length, campaigning as a moderate on issues including the economy, education, and opposition to masking and mandatory vaccination during the pandemic.
"We're all sorry that tonight cannot yet be the celebration we want it to be," Murphy, 64, told supporters early Wednesday morning when the race was too close to call. "We hope to have a celebration," he added.
The Ciattarelli campaign has yet to concede defeat, with campaign spokeswoman Stami Williams saying Wednesday afternoon the team "is focused on making sure all the legal votes are counted and our citizens can have confidence in the system."
The result of the unexpectedly-close race between Murphy and Ciattarelli came a day after Democrats were dealt a blow in Virginia, where their gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe was defeated by Republican Glenn Youngkin in the most-watched contest on Election Day. Biden carried Virginia by a 10-percent advantage over Trump in 2020.
Returning from a trip to Europe, Biden on Wednesday said that Democrats' setback was a manifestation that "the party needs to produce for the American people," adding, however, that his inability to deliver on his campaign promise for infrastructure improvement and expanded investment in social welfare and climate change didn't make much of a difference to the election results.
Acknowledging he should have got Congress to pass his legislative agenda before Election Day, Biden said "I'm not sure that I would have been able to change" the minds of those voters who leaned toward the Republican Party.
"People want us to get things done, and that's why I'm continuing to push very hard for the Democratic Party to move along and pass my infrastructure bill and my Build Back Better bill," said the president.