Murphy “stunned” by Sweeney’s electoral defeat: “I’m not happy about it in any way”
Despite a sometimes tumultuous relationship with the President of the State Senate Stephen sweeney, Gov. Phil murphy said on Friday he was “stunned” and “disappointed” by the incredible upheaval the New Jersey state’s second-most powerful elected official suffered in Tuesday’s election.
Sweeney, D-Gloucester, is set to be ousted from the State Senate in favor of little-known Republican rival Edward Durr. Sweeney has yet to concede the race against the political newcomer who has spent little to campaign against him, although the Associated Press has projected the underdog to be the race winner.
Durr, meanwhile, has already made headlines and deleted his social media accounts after the spread of xenophobic and anti-Muslim messages. A message from his Twitter account in September 2019 called Islam a “false religion” and its prophet, Muhammad, a “pedophile”.
Murphy called it all bad for the state.
“I’m stunned. This guy who is apparently winning is a dangerous guy,” the Democrat told a public event in New Brunswick, calling Durr’s social media posts “outrageous.”
“I want to be unequivocal,” added Murphy. “I don’t welcome this in any way, in any form. Steve has been a great partner, especially over the past two, two and a half years. But every step of the way, we’ve done a lot together. Steve was exceptional.
FOLLOWING: Scutari looks likely as the next Senate Speaker, sources say, with Sweeney being defeated on Election Day
Despite being both Democrats, Murphy and Sweeney have long hung on, especially during tense budget negotiations. Although the two have publicly denied having had an acrimonious relationship.
But the governor insisted on Friday that Sweeney’s departure would be a tough pill to swallow and said he hoped there would be enough votes remaining to give Sweeney a victory – an unlikely outcome.
“I’m very disappointed and he deserves the space he needs to count every voter and my fingers are crossed,” Murphy said. “And if he comes out the wrong way, I deplore him.”
With 100% of constituencies reporting, Sweeney trailed 32,742 votes to 30,444 – 51.8% to 48.2%.
If the result holds, the loss would end the longest Senate presidency in New Jersey history and dramatically change the political landscape of the Garden State.
It comes as Republicans saw an unexpected surge of support in Tuesday’s election, although Democrats have over a million more registered voters than Republicans in New Jersey.
No insider or political expert shared any concerns that Sweeney lost his seat ahead of the election.
“No one in God’s land could have predicted this,” Senator Richard Codey, D-Essex, a former governor Sweeney ousted as Senate speaker 11 years ago recently told NJ Advance Media.
ELECTION NJ 2021: Local and state results
Sweeney was to be chosen by Senate Democrats for a seventh term before this defeat – and was to be a possible candidate for governor in 2025.
Editor NJ Advance Media Brent Johnson contributed to this report.
Our journalism needs your support. Please register today at NJ.com.