WASHINGTON – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was declared the winner in his reelection campaign Wednesday after results from mail ballots and Democratic-leaning counties helped the Democrat extend his lead over Republican Jack Ciattarelli.
The Associated Press declared Murphy the winner Wednesday evening after a new batch of votes from Republican-leaning Monmouth County increased Murphy’s lead and closed the door to a Ciattarelli comeback.
Ciattarelli won Monmouth by nearly 20 percentage points. However, in keeping with a statewide trend, Murphy carried the mail vote in Monmouth by about 40 percentage points.
Democrats across the country have dominated mail-in voting since the 2020 presidential election, after former President Donald Trump claimed, without evidence, that they were susceptible to fraud. Since then, Republicans have been much less likely to vote by mail, even in states where they traditionally won the mail vote.
The mail ballots made up a little more than 20% of all votes in New Jersey. Those votes broke in Murphy's favor, even in counties he did not win, such as Monmouth, Gloucester and Cumberland.
At the time of AP's call, there was still a significant number of ballots to be counted in Democrat-leaning counties, including Essex and Mercer. That's why Murphy's lead continued to grow after AP declared him the winner.
As of Thursday evening, Murphy's lead stood at 44,000 votes out of nearly 2.5 million votes counted. His margin over Ciattarelli was 1.8 percentage points.
Ciatterelli took the lead in the vote count Tuesday night as Republican-leaning counties reported their votes faster than the more Democratic counties, and with many counties yet to report results from their mail ballots. The race flipped for Murphy Wednesday morning after more votes came in from Burlington, Bergen, Hudson and Camden.
Ohlemacher is the AP's Election Decision Editor