(The Center Square) — New Jersey Republicans fell far short of their goal of taking over the state Legislature in Tuesday’s elections, with Democrats widening their majorities in the state House and Senate and even flipping GOP-held seats.
Preliminary results showed Democrats with 47 seats in the 80-member state Assembly and 25 seats in the 40-member Senate in an election where all 120 seats in the Legislature were up for grabs following a redistricting process that shook up the state’s political maps.
Republicans won 27 seats in the Assembly and 15 in the Senate, according to preliminary results. Several Assembly races remained too close to call on Wednesday.
Democrats flipped a key Senate seat in South Jersey’s 3rd District, with Democrat John Burzichell defeating Republican Ed Durr, who shocked the state’s political class two years ago by unseating then-Senate President Steve Sweeney in a closely contested race.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who wasn’t on Tuesday’s ballot, took to social media to praise the results of the District 3 race and other Democratic upsets.
“The voters of South Jersey spoke loud and clear that they want a commonsense leader over a right-wing extremist,” Murphy posted on X.
Democrats also held off Republican challengers in key districts, such as the 11th Senate District in Monmouth County, where incumbent Democrat Sen. Vin Gopal held onto his seat amid a challenge from Republican Stephen Dnistrian, a former health care executive.
They also flipped two South Jersey Assembly seats in the 3rd district, with Democrats Heather Simmons and Dave Bailey defeating incumbent Bethanne McCarthy Patrick and her running mate, Tom Tedesco, according to preliminary results.
There were a few bright spots for Republicans on Tuesday, including a Central New Jersey seat that reverted to the GOP after the previous senator switched parties after learning that the party was planning to primary him and retired.
Among them was Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry, a Republican who won his first term in the state Senate. Henry flipped New Jersey’s 12th District Senate seat back to Republicans after defeating Democrat Brandon Rose. The election fills a seat vacated by Republican-turned-Democrat Sam Thompson, who resigned.
But overall, the results were disappointing for the state GOP, which was hoping to expand on its success two years ago when it flipped seven Democratic seats.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, New Jersey Republicans had hammered away at Democrats over the issue of parental rights, with the state’s Democratic Attorney General fighting in court with schools over transgender curriculums and other thorny social issues.
They’ve seized on recent poll findings suggesting that Democrats are vulnerable on the ‘culture war’ issue and argue they’re out of touch with the majority of the state’s voters on parental rights.
But a poll released on Tuesday showed that many voters were more concerned about pocketbook issues such as the economy and jobs than divisive social issues.
Democrats, who were concerned about a repeat of their losses several years ago, campaigned on their efforts to make New Jersey more affordable by lowering taxes and reducing the state’s high cost of living.
Democrats have a three-to-one registration advantage over Republicans in New Jersey and controlled the redistricting process last year that critics say redrew political maps favorably to their party.
Republicans haven’t controlled either chamber of the Legislature in two decades.