In a nail-biting race that was too close to call for nearly 24 hours after polls closed Tuesday night, Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy won a second term, defeating Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.
US Jewish leaders flooded Twitter Wednesday night to congratulate the 64-year-old, who is the first Democratic governor to win re-election in New Jersey, home to the fourth-largest Jewish community in the US, in four decades. Some noted that the Orthodox Jewish vote may have swayed the race for the Democrat.
"Mazel Tov to @PhilMurphyNJ on his re-election as Governor of New Jersey!" the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) tweeted. "It’s clear that Gov. Murphy not only shares our Jewish values, but acts on them every day as Governor of New Jersey, and we’re proud to have supported his winning campaign."
Mazel Tov to @PhilMurphyNJ on his re-election as Governor of New Jersey! It’s clear that Gov. Murphy not only shares our Jewish values, but acts on them every day as Governor of New Jersey, and we’re proud to have supported his winning campaign. pic.twitter.com/9gXiFd948e— Jewish Dems (@USJewishDems) November 3, 2021
During the campaign, JDCA CEO Halie Soifer had made the comment about having and acting on shared Jewish values.
“Governor Murphy has provided steady leadership throughout the pandemic, taken bold steps to combat gun violence, and ensured access to affordable healthcare," Soifer said. He’s distinguished New Jersey as a national leader in fighting COVID-19, ensuring equal rights for all, and protecting the environment. We're proud to support his re-election."
"The Orthodox Jewish vote may have tipped the NJ governor's race to the Democrat," tweeted Atlantic reporter Yair Rosenberg. "Over the last few years, @PhilMurphyNJ and his attorney general @GurbirGrewalNJ went after discriminatory groups and townships that tried to keep Orthodox Jews out, and won. That mattered."
In the surprisingly tight election, in which registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in the Garden State by more than 1 million, Murphy won the support of both Orthodox and progressive Jews, typically known to gravitate to rival candidates.
About 70% of American Jews lean Left, according to the Pew Research Center, and for the New Jersey residents among them, Murphy was an appealing candidate.
Orthodox Jews, who traditionally vote right-wing, were swayed by Murphy's increased education and security funding for private schools in his first term. He also firmly supports Israel, having visited twice.
The Lakewood Vaad endorsed Murphy on Tuesday, giving him the support of hugely influential religious leaders from the Orthodox Jewish community, the New Jersey Globe reported.
Lakewood is a heavily Republican municipality, but with the support of the Vaad, Murphy was able to win the township by 114 votes over Republican Kim Guadagno in 2017.
"The results are (almost) in & the Lakewood community may very well be what helped put @GovMurphyon top," former New York State Assemblyman Benny Polatseck tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
During his last term, Murphy, who is Catholic, renewed the New Jersey-Israel Commission, which oversees trade relations with the Jewish state. He also recently used the state’s anti-BDS law against Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, over the ice cream maker’s decision to end sales in the West Bank.
Murphy has overseen a shift to the Left in the state, including new taxes on millionaires, stricter gun restrictions, a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave. He has also defended his robust approach to the coronavirus pandemic, including mandating masks in schools.
Ciattarelli, 59, a former state lawmaker, had focused much of his campaign on the state's high taxes, while accusing Murphy, a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive, of being out of touch.
New Jersey has trended steadily Democratic in recent years. The party won 10 of the state's 12 US House of Representatives seats in 2020, and President Joe Biden carried the state over former President Donald Trump last year by more than 15 percentage points.
Reuters contributed to this report.