By Richard Lee
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s narrow victory over Republican Jack Ciattarelli in Tuesday’s New Jersey governor’s election is reminiscent of Christie Whitman’s 1990 campaign for U.S. Senate.
At the time, Whitman, a Republican, was a county freeholder who was given little chance to unseat popular Democrat Bill Bradley. But voters were angry that Democrat Jim Florio and the Democratic legislature had enacted a massive tax increase. Florio wasn’t on the ballot, so Bradley felt the wrath of New Jersey voters and just barely defeated Whitman.
The race put Whitman on the political map. She went on to win two terms as New Jersey governor and serve as EPA Administrator during the Bush administration.
This year, Joe Biden wasn’t on the ballot, so voters vented their anger by voting against Democrats like Murphy in New Jersey and McAuliffe in Virginia. Although Ciattarelli fell short of a stunning upset, his showing could enhance his political future too.
Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors.