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A Republican truck driver who reportedly spent next to nothing on his primary campaign is within spitting distance of ousting one of New Jersey's most powerful Democrat politicians.
Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) has been New Jersey's state Senate President since 2010 and has served in the state Senate since 2002. With 99.37% of precincts reporting in New Jersey's 3rd District, Sweeney trails Republican Edward Durr, a commercial truck driver who reportedly spent just $153 on his own primary campaign.
Durr's low-key campaign and potential to oust Sweeney has shocked politicos, even if the race has received a fraction of the coverage as that of the gubernatorial election. The tightness of the race was so unexpected that the New Jersey Globe was forced to retract its article calling the race for Sweeney early in the night. The Globe initially reported within minutes of the polls closing that Sweeney, as well as Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro (D-Woolwich), won re-election. An update was added to the article at 1:11 a.m.:
Update: This race call was retracted at 1:11 a.m., after it became clear all three Democrats stood a strong chance of losing.
At the time of this writing, Burzichelli and Taliaferro are trailing their Republican challengers, realtor Beth Sawyer and EMT Bethanne McCarthy-Patrick.
The tightness of the race is especially shocking since Sweeney faced a well-funded challenge back in 2017 but won handily. As the Globe reported:
In 2017, the 3rd district hosted the most expensive state legislative race in American history. Republicans and the New Jersey Education Association, both fed up with Sweeney's time as Senate President, funnelled millions towards Republican Fran Grenier, and Sweeney responded in kind. The ultimate price tag of the race was more than $24 million, but Sweeney won easily, 59-41%.
The three incumbents spent enough in 2021 to make the 3rd District races one of New Jersey's five most expensive, even though, at least in the case of Sweeney, little pushback was made on the other side.
Patch reported Wednesday morning that Sweeney canceled the Senate Majority's Leadership Caucus that was scheduled for Thursday.
"Due to the closeness of several State Senate elections, the Leadership Caucus scheduled for tomorrow will be delayed,"
Sweeney said. "The Caucus will be rescheduled once the result of every Senate election is determined."
Sweeney's close race echoes that of the New Jersey gubernatorial election, where Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli remains locked in a tight race with incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. As The Daily Wire reported: "The tight race is already a victory for Republicans after GOP candidate Jack Ciattarelli clearly outperformed expectations amid booming Republican turnout in the Garden State. Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy was widely expected to score an easy victory on Tuesday. With about 88% of the vote in Wednesday morning, Ciattarelli led Murphy by just over 1,000 votes."
Even if Murphy ultimately prevails, the GOP can still view the close race as a victory, since Democrats have a 1 million voter advantage in the Garden State.
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