will on Tuesday decide whether Gov. Phil Murphy will be the first incumbent Democrat to be re-elected since 1977.
The garden state isin the presidential and senate elections, but its off-year state office election governor cycle led to GOP victories in 1994 and 2009, the years after Democrats took control of the White House.
Murphy is battling former Republican congressman Jack Ciattarelli, a moderate Republican who easily won the party’s nomination in June by defeating opponents who are closer to former President Trump. Ciattarelli has been a gubernatorial candidate for nearly two years and has stormed the state on the domestic stretch, holding dozens of retail events.
New Jersey has 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans, giving Murphy a statistical advantage. A recent poll from Monmouth University showed that Murphy rose 11 points among registered voters, and a poll from Stockton University brought the governor up to 9 points among likely voters.
Ciattarelli and his allies insist the race is closer than these polls show, and believe there is a good chance of a major uprising on Tuesday. If he removes the monumental disturbance, it could create a template for Republicans in bluer states during the 2022 midterm elections.
Murphy has focused on his accomplishments in the first period on the campaign track. He highlights raising the minimum wage, introducing a tax on wealthy New Jerseyans, extending paid family leave, increasing funding for public schools and providing more access to pre-k.
“I think back to the day I laid my hand on the Bible four years ago. We had underperformed, we had limped, we achieved miracles, we constantly failed our people,” Murphy told supporters in Elizabeth on Sunday. “I’m here to tell you those days are over.”
For Ciattarelli, the focus has largely been on taxes, especially New Jersey’s high property taxes. Recent polls from Monmouth University and Stockton University showed that taxes have taken over as the number one issue for voters.
“This is the guy who said to the highest taxed people in the country, ‘if taxes are your problem, we are probably not your state,'” Ciattarelli told a crowd in Edison on Thursday. “He’s out of touch. I’m the main street, he’s Wall Street. I’m an MBA / CPA, he’s an investment banker. I’m you, he’s someone else. He’s messing with the Red Sox, let’s send him back to Massachusetts. . “
Painting Murphy as an outsider has resonated with some of Ciattarelli’s supporters, who say the governor is out of touch with voters on economic and pandemic-related issues.
“(Murphy’s) not a Jersey boy. He does not know the nuances,” said Jerome Sisolak, a retired Edison police officer. “We will put this to bed and send him back to where he belongs.”
The pandemic is also a top problem for voters, and Murphy insists he is best placed to lead the state in the midst of. Ciattarelli has hammered Murphy over deaths in nursing homes in the early days of the pandemic, while Murphy has focused on Ciattarelli’s opposition to vaccine and mask mandates.
“He sticks his finger in the air and sees which way the political winds are blowing before saying anything about vaccinations or masking,” Murphy told a crowd at Rutgers University Thursday at an event with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Ciattarelli, who has been vaccinated and has encouraged people to get vaccinated, has said he believes getting the vaccine is about personal choices. A Stockton University poll from late September found that 58% of likely voters supported New Jersey’s student mask mandate, and 56% supported a requirement for companies with more than 100 employees to require vaccination or weekly testing.
“I strongly urge people to be vaccinated. Do I think the government has the right to tell people that they should be vaccinated for COVID-19? I do not,” Ciattarelli told reporters after casting his vote Friday.
Education has been an important topic but has not dominated the race as it has done in Virginia. Ciattarelli has talked about parents concerned about school curriculum by inventing a new formula for school funding to lower property taxes, saying at the first debate that “certain topic” for kindergarten to eighth grade students is “best left to the kitchen table. ”
Murphy has called for increased funding for schools and has tied schools to the pandemic by focusing on topics such as the student mask mandate.
Paul Chopra, a student at Rutgers, said Thursday he was not sure how he would vote when he showed up for Murphy’s rally with Sanders. He thought Murphy handled the pandemic well, but liked Ciattarelli’s place in the moderate lane of the Republican Party. But on Sunday, he told CBS News that he was casting his vote for Murphy.
“Much of his agenda, such as the minimum wage, has played a big role,” Chopra said of how he arrived at his decision. “I think (raising the minimum wage) was a common sense thing to do.”
This has been the first year of early personal voting, after Murphy earlier this year signed a law allowing nine days of early voting in parliamentary elections. According to the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, 170,000 people voted early in person from Saturday and 451,000 people voted per. Friday. Democrats have so far cast 59% of the total vote.