Democrat Phil Murphy easily defeated Republican Kim Guadagno in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race on Tuesday, an election that turned the page on the troubled tenure of term-limited Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Murphy, a multimillionaire former Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, maintained a comfortable lead in the polls throughout the months-long race. His victory gives Democrats unified control of the state’s government.
Guadagno, the state’s lieutenant governor who spent much of her last seven years in office in Christie’s shadow, suffered partly because of how politically toxic the scandal-plagued incumbent governor had become ― even to members of his own party. A sign of the lack of enthusiasm behind her candidacy, Guadagno’s campaign was even forced to offer supporters money to knock on doors last month.
Guadagno attempted to shake up the race in the final weeks of the race by releasing an ad that accused Murphy of sympathizing with murderous gangs, a tactic similarly undertaken by Republicans against the Democratic nominee in the Virginia gubernatorial race. However, the ad was panned and proved less effective in the Garden State.
Murphy enlisted big names to help animate voters in what had otherwise been a sleepy contest, including musician Jon Bon Jovi, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Guadagno did not campaign with President Donald Trump, the leader of her party, who has just a 31 percent approval rating in the state.
The ongoing federal bribery trial of the state’s senior senator, Bob Menendez (D), injected some late drama in the gubernatorial race. The possibility that Menendez, who has denied all federal corruption charges, is convicted and then expelled from the Senate would give the GOP a chance to appoint his replacement. Guadagno could have done so had she won and Menendez been found guilty.
Democrats, however, are not expected to be in a rush to expel or force Menendez out of office even if he is convicted.