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

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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 through the evening, Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy and Republican nominee Jack Ciatarelli had an intense back and forth, each leapfrogging the other multiple times. 

Throughout the campaign, Murphy held a steady lead over Ciattarelli, despite the former businessman appearing to be closing in on the governor in a number of late polls. 

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, was elected governor of New Jersey in 2017, succeeding 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. 

If he pulls out the win, Murphy will be the first Democratic governor of New Jersey to win reelection since 1977. 

Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli speaks during a gubernatorial debate with Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy.
Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli speaks during a gubernatorial debate with Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy.
AP

From 2011 to 2018, Ciattarelli served in the New Jersey General Assembly representing the 16th legislative district. In 2017, he attempted to run for governor but came up second in the primary to Kim Guadagno.

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 the hefty lead Murphy carried, 39 percent voters said Ciattarelli could be trusted more to handle taxes than Murphy, for whom 29 percent said he could be trusted. 

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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