Update: Democrat Phil Murphy has defeated Republican Kim Guadagno in New Jersey’s Governor’s race, according to projections from multiple news outlets.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s time in office is up.
On Tuesday, November 7, the people of New Jersey elected a new governor. Democrat Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, defeated Republican Kim Guadagno, who is currently serving as Christie’s lieutenant governor.
Polls closed at 8 pm Eastern time on Tuesday.
This was one of two gubernatorial contests in 2017 that are being closely tracked as a litmus test of Donald Trump’s presidency (the other is in Virginia).
A blue-leaning state that overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, New Jersey has a history of electing Republicans at the state level. But this year, the odds are in favor of a Democratic win. Early polls have shown Murphy solidly ahead of Guadagno, holding a double-digit lead throughout. One day before the election, Murphy led Guadagno by 14 points, according to the RealClearPolitics average.
Much of that can be attributed to the sheer unpopularity of Christie — who recorded the lowest approval rating of any New Jersey governor in history, at 15 percent. (Remember when he and his family were caught on the state beach he had closed to New Jersey residents as part of the government shutdown?)
But Murphy’s seemingly easy rise poses an interesting situation for the Democratic Party — in a time the Democratic Party has moved the left, with a growing number of political hopefuls adopting a populist message, New Jersey’s next governor could very likely be a former Goldman Sachs executive.
The most up-to-date election results are below, or at this link.
Both candidates are trying to avoid the shadows of past governors
In the past months, Murphy, who easily won the Democratic nomination in June, has had to answer for a past that resembles that of former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, the Goldman Sachs executive whom Christie unseated in 2009.
It’s opened an easy line of attack against Murphy, who has been running on a progressive platform, including raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations. On the campaign trail, Guadagno has called him the “Goldman Sachs millionaire" and tied him to Corzine.
As Jeff Stein wrote for Vox in June, Murphy’s résumé “looks like a parody of what Berniecrats allege about the Clinton wing of the party”:
In the course of his 23 years at Goldman Sachs, where he started working the year before he graduated from Harvard University, Murphy came under attack for running a division that profited "from an investment into a shoe manufacturer notorious for its horrific work conditions and treatment of employees," according to an investigation by the Star-Ledger newspaper. (Murphy’s campaign says he had no role in the investments.)
After his career at Goldman Sachs, Murphy went on to work for the Democratic National Committee as the party’s finance chair. A major Democratic donor who has poured more than $1 million into New Jersey Democratic races, Murphy was given the ambassadorship to Germany under Obama’s presidency — even thought Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed his appointment.
His campaign is a reflection of the strong Democratic Party apparatus in the state, Murphy has out-fundraised Guadagno three to one in the general elections and notably spend more than $15 million of his own money to win the primary. His campaign has drawn on the support of Democratic heavy hitters like Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Al Gore.
Guadagno has made a point of targeting Murphy on his Wall Street history — which Murphy has made an effort to erase from his pitch to voters. His website’s reference to his career at Goldman Sachs says Murphy “started his career at the bottom, working his way up to help lead a major international business by learning how economies grow and create jobs.”
But the attacks don’t seem to be hitting Murphy too hard in the polls, likely because Christie has cast an even greater shadow over Guadagno’s campaign — and President Trump is unpopular, casting a shadow on down-ballot races.
There’s not question that the lieutenant governor, who has served in Christie’s administration for seven years, has tried to keep the incredibly unpopular governor out of her campaign, repeatedly having to fend off Murphy’s attacks of a third Christie term with an assurance that she is running on her own record and not his.
The people of New Jersey don’t seem to be buying it, though.
If Murphy wins this race, it will be show of just how toxic Christie’s governorship — and perhaps even Donald Trump’s presidency — became in the Garden State.