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Democrat Phil Murphy wins New Jersey governor’s race — succeeding deeply unpopular Chris Christie

This is the most powerful governor’s seat in the nation and signals big change for the state.

Bill Clinton Campaigns With Democratic NJ Gubernatorial Candidate Phil Murphy Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Chris Christie is out.

Democrat Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Democratic Party operative, has won the New Jersey governor’s race, beating out Republican Kim Guadagno, who is currently serving as Christie’s lieutenant governor.

Despite having a history of electing Republicans at the state level, New Jersey is a blue-leaning state that overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election — and Murphy was the expected winner.

Murphy’s win is in part thanks 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? Or Bridgegate?)

Christie’s terrible reputation proved too difficult for Guadagno, who served under his governorship for seven years, to shake.

Murphy’s rise is a big win for Democrats in the state — they control the state legislature as well. And New Jersey’s governor wields more power than any other governor in the country. New Jersey doesn’t have any other statewide elected offices; the attorney general and lieutenant governor are both appointed by the governor, in addition to judges and commission members, and there is no financial comptroller.

Murphy will likely play a large role in the future of the state’s transit system and health care, and will have the authority to veto line-items in the budget — meaning he can change the budget without the approval of the state’s legislature.

His campaign was 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 drew on the support of Democratic heavy hitters like Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Al Gore.

But Murphy’s seemingly easy rise poses an interesting situation for the Democratic Party — in a time when the party has moved to the left, with a growing number of political hopefuls adopting a populist message, New Jersey’s next governor is a former Goldman Sachs executive.

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.

Even so, Murphy has run on a progressive platform, and his win could signal a major shift for the Garden State. He has proposed a big tax hike on New Jersey’s wealthy and corporations, has promised to make undocumented immigrants eligible for state-issued identification cards and occupational licenses, said he wants to charter a state bank, and said he would sign a gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour — a bill Christie vetoed.

Murphy’s win signals a lot of changes for the state.