New Jersey occupied center stage with Virginia this year as only one of two states with a governor’s race on the ballot. But, in addition to that august distinction, the garden state also elected a whole new legislature and weighed in on two significant ballot initiatives. Unfortunately turnout was low statewide (36 percent). Here’s a recap:
Gubernatorial Election Results
In an early announcement (politico reported results at 8:10pm) Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy won the race for Governor, defeating Kim Guadagno (R). Murphy won with 56% of the vote.
Key Legislative Elections
In the Legislature, Democrats expand their majorities in both houses. On the Assembly side, Democrats picked up two seats, and now have a 54-26 majority. In the Senate, the Democrats will add to their majority, as Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-7) won the seat vacated by retiring Senator Diane Allen (R-7), while Vin Gopal (D-11) defeated Republican-incumbent Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11) in the biggest upset of the night. Democrats will control 25 of the 40 Senate seats next session.
Several races were tightly contested.
- The 2nd District Senate race between Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2) and Senator Colin Bell (D-2), who recently filled the seat of the late-Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2), was one of the most closely-watched races this election cycle. Asm. Brown received 54% of the vote and his pickup helped offset the loss of the 7th District’s Senate seat to Asm. Troy Singleton (D-7). In the Assembly race, incumbent Democratic Asm. Vincent Mazzeo (D-2) was reelected, while newcomer John Armato (D) added to his Party’s majority in the General Assembly by winning the seat vacated by Senator-elect Chris Brown (R-2).
- In the 11th District, Democrats picked up a seat in the Senate, as Vin Gopal (D) defeated incumbent State Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11) in one of the most expensive and competitive races in the state. Gopal won the seat by receiving 53% of the vote. Gopal will join Democratic Assembly members Eric Houghtaling (D-11) and Joann Downey (D-11) in representing the district next session.
- The Senate race in the 16th District was also extremely close. Incumbent Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Laurie Poppe by a 51-49 margin. However, Republicans lost the Assembly seat vacated by former Republican Gubernatorial nominee Asm. Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), as Democrat Roy Freiman defeated Donna Simon (R). He will join incumbent Asm. Andrew Zwicker (D-16), who was reelected to his second term.
Newly Elected Legislators
The State Assembly will be host to a number of new faces including:
- John Armato (D-2)
- Carol Murphy (D-7)
- Ryan Peters (R-8)
- Serena DiMaso (R-13)
- Roy Freiman (D-16)
- Yvonne Lopez (D-19)
- Harold Wirths (R-24)
- Shanique Speight (D-29)
- Christopher DePhillips (R-40)
The Senate will also see some changes:
- Vin Gopal (D-11)
- Joe Cryan (D-20) former Assembly Majority Leader from the 20th Legislative District (2010-2012)
- Chris Brown (R-2) former Assemblyman from the 2nd Legislative District (2012-present)
- Troy Singleton (D-7) former Assemblyman from the 7th Legislative District (2011-present)
- Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) former Assemblyman from the 13th Legislative District (2008-present)
Finally, New Jersey voters were asked to cast their vote on two ballot initiatives. The first, which authorizes the state to issue $125 million in bonds to provide grants to public libraries for building, equipping, and expanding facilities to increase capacity and serve the public, was approved by 60% of voters. According to the measure, the State Librarian, in consultation with the President of Thomas Edison State University, will set the eligibility criteria for the grants.
The second initiative on the ballot, which amends the State Constitution to prevent future governors and the legislature from repurposing money earmarked for restoring land and waterways tainted by pollution, was passed with 69% of voters supporting the measure. This initiative was in response to years of elected officials syphoning remediation funds collected by the state from polluting companies and using that money to plug holes in the state budget. The new Amendment will create a “lockbox” for state revenue from legal settlements and awards related to natural resource damages in cases of environmental contamination. Revenue in the “lockbox” would be used to restore or replace damaged or lost natural resources, protect natural resources, and pay the legal costs of pursuing settlements and rewards.
Governor-elect Phil Murphy and rest of the winners from the 2017 Election will take office on January 16.