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NJ governor, backed by spectrum of Jewish voters, narrowly wins reelection

Democrat Phil Murphy, who campaigned for Orthodox Jewish votes, ekes out victory over GOP challenger to retain New Jersey governorship

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy delivers a victory speech after defeating Republican Jack Ciattarelli to win re-election, on November 3, 2021, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy delivers a victory speech after defeating Republican Jack Ciattarelli to win re-election, on November 3, 2021, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

JTA — New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, the Democrat who cultivated relations across the political spectrum with his state’s substantial Jewish community, defeated Republican Jack Ciattarelli in a tight reelection.

The election Tuesday was closer than anticipated, with Murphy winning barely 50 percent of the vote in a low-turnout election in which Republicans focused on extended school closures and other unpopular coronavirus prevention measures.

Murphy has instituted progressive policies, including subsidized community college and a $15 minimum wage, that please the state’s Democrats, among them Jews who routinely vote overwhelmingly for the party.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders, the Jewish senator from Vermont who is the de facto leader of progressives, campaigned for Murphy in recent days.

But unusually for a progressive, Murphy campaigned among the politically conservative Orthodox Jews who are concentrated in the state’s suburbs. Last month, Murphy secured the endorsement of the Lakewood Vaad, the council of Orthodox religious leaders.

Murphy has directed security funding to Jewish nonprofits and has been outspoken in condemning antisemitism. He is against the boycott Israel movement, and his government is in the process of stopping investments in Unilever, the parent company of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, which is ending sales in the West Bank.

In other notable races Tuesday:

  • Glenn Youngkin, a Republican businessman, stunned Democrats by defeating Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic governor. The campaign that saw an intense focus among Democrats on the growing Jewish population in the state’s north, which included suburbs where Youngkin made inroads in areas that had tilted toward Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
  • Jacob Frey, who is Jewish, won reelection as mayor in Minneapolis, in an election seen as a referendum on plans to drastically reform the police, proposals Frey opposed.
  • Eric Adams, a Democrat and a former cop, was elected mayor in New York, having run on a public safety record. Despite campaigning hard in the Hasidic Jewish community in Borough Park, Adams, the incumbent Brooklyn Borough president, failed to secure a majority of their votes.
  • Ohio Democrat Shontel Brown, who had received support from pro-Israel Democratic groups in her victory over an Israel-critical primary challenger in August, won her congressional race to replace Marcia Fudge in the House.

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