N.J. elections were tighter than anticipated


Photo courtesy of Instagram @mayorbrindle

Incumbent Westfield Democrats celebrate re-election at the James Ward Mansion on Nov. 2

On Nov. 2, 2.4 million eligible New Jersey residents voted in the 2021 election for Governor, Senate, House Representatives, municipal governments and school boards.

A surge of Republican victories swept the nation with several Democratic positions being replaced by Republicans. Stephen Sweeney, the longest-tenured Senate president in New Jersey history, was ousted by Republican Candidate Edward Durr, despite having served since 2010. Sweeney conceded on Nov. 10, eight days after the election.

Durr’s win came as a surprise given his lesser-known presence and lack of political background, having worked as a commercial truck driver for 25 years. In an interview with Hi’s Eye Durr said, “I feel excited, yet a bit concerned if I will be able to make the voters proud and feel they made the right choice. I know I will work hard.”

The gubernatorial election came close to a similar fate with incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy defeating Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli by only 2.8 percentage points, a big jump from Monmouth University’s 11 point anticipated victory for Governor Murphy. Ten days following the election on Nov. 12, Ciattarelli conceded.

Following the concession, Murphy said, “Over the next four years, we will govern as we have since day one – committed to building a stronger and fairer New Jersey from the middle out and the bottom up.”

The narrowness of Murphy’s win was unexpected given New Jersey’s blue-leaning history. Coupled with Durr’s unexpected victory and a grueling win by Republicans in Virginia, this could be a wake-up call to Democrats. For now, Democrats continue to hold party control over New Jersey, holding a majority of the seats, both interstate and federally.

Westfield did not experience the same tight races that hit the rest of the state. Democratic incumbent, Mayor Shelley Brindle, defeated Republican Candidate JoAnn Neylan by over 1,200 votes, winning her a second term as Mayor of Westfield.

In an Instagram post on Nov. 4 Brindle wrote, “As your mayor, I represent all of you, regardless of your political affiliation and how you cast your vote. I remain committed to making decisions that are always in the best interests of the community at large, and pledge to continue to engage, listen and inform.”

The rest of the Westfield Democratic Committee followed suit, as Mike Dardia (Ward 1), Linda Habgood (Ward 2), David Contract (Ward 3) and Dawn Mackey (Ward 4) were re-elected to serve their respective wards.

Habgood expressed her excitement with the results and attributed the positive experience to the high school interns. “It was fun because I had the opportunity to work with so many passionate young people who interned with the campaign.”

Contract, who also recruited a number of high school interns, is committed to carrying out his core message of “continuing to bring proactive leadership to Westfield for four more years.”

Westfield residents favored Mary Wickens, Kristen Toriello Sonnek-Schmelz and Robert Benacchio in the BOE election, unseating incumbent members Robert S. Garrison and Kent Diamond.

The results of the elections, some surprising, some not, look to define New Jersey in the coming years.