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Tipsheet

New Jersey State Senate President Defeated by Truck Driver Has Conceded

AP Photo/Mel Evans, File

There's been a concluding update in the saga that's been a race between soon-to-be-former state Senate President Stephen Sweeney. Over a week after the election, Sweeney, a Democrat, has conceded to Edward Durr, a truck driver who spent a little over $2,300 in the past year. While the Associated Press reported last Thursday that the race was called for Durr, Sweeney, as Leah covered, refused to concede. He finally did so at a press conference in Trenton on Wednesday, as Brent Johnson with NJ.com reported. 

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According to a copy of the full speech posted by David Wildstein with New Jersey Globe, Sweeney began his concession speech by acknowledging that "the results of Tuesday’s election are in, all votes have been fairly counted, and I, of course, accept the results." He went on to say "I want to congratulate Mr. Durr and wish him the best of luck."

In addition to listing his accomplishments from his time in office, Sen. Sweeney also indicated he'll still be involved in politics, though he did not specify exactly how that will be, or any future plans he may have. Johnson noted that Sweeney is considered a gubernatorial contender for 2025. New Jersey governors are limited to two terms. 

"I plan to keep speaking to those concerns. I plan to remain fully involved in public affairs in New Jersey," he said. "I will be speaking from a different podium, but I promise you: I will be just as loud and just as forceful a voice for change," Sweeney went on to share towards the close of his speech. 

Johnson referred to Sweeney's loss as a "stunning election loss." Sweeney had, in fact, been the "the longest-serving legislative leader in New Jersey history," Wildstein pointed out. Had Sweeney won his race against Durr, he was expected to be chosen once again as Senate president, for what would have been his seventh term.

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Decision Desk HQ on Friday tweeted an Elections-Daily article by Harrison Lavelle, "A Giant Toppled: Who is Edward Durr?" Lavelle began by writing that "Tuesday was rife with surprises, but none was more shocking than the Senate result in South Jersey’s 3rd district." 

He also examined how Durr ended up winning the race:

Senator Sweeney lost because the Gloucester portion of his district swung 21 points toward the Republicans. About 60% of the votes in the 3rd district are cast in this part of the seat. The veteran incumbent won it by 22 points in 2017 but carried it by just one on Tuesday. That proved to be too much for him to overcome.

There were similarly large swings in the Salem and Cumberland portions of the district, which Durr flipped to the GOP by one and 14 points respectively. The unexpected nature of the result poses an important question: was this a fluke?

Given his tenure and extensive campaign infrastructure advantages, it seems easy to write off Sweeney’s loss as a fluke upset in a bad environment. While the outcome was certainly an upset, it may not have been as much of a fluke as we originally thought.

Comparing recent election results here on the municipality level sheds light on some of the forces that have been at work under the hood. The most impactful has been the fact that the district is getting redder. Once prime Obama territory like much of South Jersey, the 3rd saw Trump increase GOP vote share in both of his elections.

Above we compared the 2017 Senate race and the latest Presidential results. Since we do not have 2021 municipality data yet, the last federal result is the probably the best depiction of Durr’s victory that we currently have. Both Biden and Sweeney got roughly the same share of the vote, carrying only the bluest parts of the district.
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Lavelle's piece was published before Sweeney conceded, but nevertheless mentioned how there's no time to be wasted in looking for a replacement, with Nicholas Scutari of Union County looking like the favorite.

Durr also spoke on Wednesday, calling his differences with Sweeney "political not personal." The senator-elect also referenced Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ), noting that voters "don’t want government rule by a dangerous guy armed with a bunch of executive orders."

As Leah reported last month, Project Veritas revealed that Gov. Murphy was planning to enact strict vaccine mandates similar to California's, but was waiting to see if he won re-election. 

While the shockingly close race has officially been called in favor of Murphy, his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, has refused to concede. Murphy was declared the winner last Wednesday by Decision Desk HQ, with 51.04 percent of the vote to Ciattarelli's 48.19 percent. 

Leah highlighted how McClatchy national political correspondent Dave Catanese tweeted that the New Jersey results were "more alarming" than those in Virginia, where Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who served as governor from 2014-2018, was defeated by Republican Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin.

McAuliffe earned 1,600,049 votes, compared to Murphy who earned 1,303,263 votes. 

Durr won with 51.69 percent of the vote to Sweeney's 48.31 percent.

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