Republicans are holding out hope that Jack Ciattarelli can pull off a stunning upset over Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday and turn back his bid for a second term despite the Democrat’s lead in the polls and voter registrations.
Murphy is running to become the first incumbent Democratic governor reelected in the state since 1977.
And he has some distinct advantages: registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a million and he has been up by as many as 11 percentage points in recent polls.
But Republicans hope their voters have the momentum to turn out and vote Murphy out.
Republicans are “feeling their oats the way they maybe didn’t last year, when [former President Donald] Trump let all the air out of the room,” Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, told NJ.com.
Murphy is betting that the overwhelming numbers of Democratic voters will propel him to victory.
“It’s quite simple: Our team shows up, we win,” Murphy said last month during a campaign rally with first lady Jill Biden. “Our team doesn’t show up, this thing’s a coin toss.”
The contest is somewhat overshadowed by the race in Virginia between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin that many see as a bellwether for the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.
Ciattarelli, a former member of the state Assembly, has painted Murphy, who was born in Massachusetts, as a “tax and spend liberal” and an outsider.
Speaking on the eve of the election in Raritan, his hometown, Ciattarelli talked about his New Jersey roots.
“This is the town my grandparents immigrated to 100 years ago,” Ciattarelli told his supporters.
He said his parents worked hard at a restaurant they owned to support their family and passed along important life lessons.
“Whenever my parents saw successful people, they would point to that person and say to my sister, my two bros and me, ‘There’s somebody you want to be like, there’s somebody you want to aspire to be,’” he said. “They were never resentful. They never ever said, ‘That person’s privileged, that person’s lucky or that person needs to pay their fair share.’”
He went on to knock Murphy, who earned a fortune as an executive at Goldman Sachs and served as the US ambassador to Germany in the Obama administration.
“Here’s this guy’s problem. He wasn’t raised here, never went to school here, never worked, here, never owned a business here. He’s not Raritan. He’s not Somerset County. He’s not New Jersey. And in 24 hours, he’s not our governor,” Ciattarelli said.
All 120 seats in the state Legislature are also up for grabs. The state Senate and Assembly are currently controlled by the Democrats.
With Post wires