TRENTON, N.J. — Ballots were still being counted in some of New Jersey’s most closely watched races after Tuesday’s election for all 80 Assembly seats and a single Senate seat to succeed a Democrat who’s been elected to Congress.
The Associated Press has still not called more than a dozen races out of the 40 Assembly Districts, as well as the Democrat-held state Senate seat. Mail-in ballots were still to be tallied in some places and other races were too close to call.
Democrats went into Election Day holding a 54 to 26 majority over Republicans in the Assembly. The close contests gave the GOP hope that they might capture at least a few additional seats in the first statewide legislative election since Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy took office in 2018.
“We pushed back Phil Murphy’s blue wave and in a state like New Jersey, that gives us momentum going into 2020,” Republican State Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in a statement.
Murphy is set to address the election results Wednesday. He said Tuesday that a number of the races were razor thin, but expressed confidence Democrats could prevail.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Jersey by more than 1 million registered voters and spent nearly 3.5 times more than Republicans on this election.
In the 1st District state Senate race Democrat Bob Andrzejczak is fighting to hold on to the seat vacated when Jeff Van Drew left for Congress against Republican Mike Testa. Testa declared victory, though The Associated Press hasn’t called the race.
On the only statewide ballot question, voters said yes to veterans living in retirement communities getting a $250 property tax deduction.
One of the top races that has not been called was Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick’s fight to keep his seat in the 21st District, which is becoming more Democratic.
Bramnick and his running mate, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, spoke earlier Tuesday night in Westfield, and declared victory, though The Associated Press has not called the race.
A single state Senate race was on the ballot in southern New Jersey.
Voters pick two assembly members in every district. Democrats and Republicans generally run as pairs on a party ticket.
Among the races that were called on Tuesday, it was a good night for incumbents.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin was reelected, as was Majority Leader Lou Greenwald.
The election came as Murphy navigates a sometimes friendly and sometimes reluctant Democrat-led Legislature.
The first-term former Wall Street executive has campaigned and governed as an unabashed liberal, pushing a $15 minimum wage and opposing Republican President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, but he’s so far failed to get a bill legalizing recreational marijuana through the Legislature.
Trump himself and the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry also overlapped with the race. But Republicans downplayed the president.
Republican incumbent Ryan Peters, who was in a close race in the Burlington County-based 8th District said he didn’t think the president was a factor.
He and his running mate Jean Stanfield said most voters said they worried about taxes and school funding.
In a closely watched local issue, Jersey City voters approved restrictions on Airbnb and other short-term rental companies.
The vote was an endorsement of restrictions initially passed by Jersey City lawmakers in June, but that were put on hold after short-term rental advocates gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.