New Jersey Gubernatorial Election Recap
Governor Phil Murphy ended the Democrats’ 44-year curse by becoming the first Democratic governor to win re-election in the Garden State since 1977 when Governor Brendan Byrne was re-elected. Governor Murphy beat the Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, by a little more than 84,000 votes (3.2 percent margin).1 Throughout the campaign, polling showed Governor Murphy maintaining a double-digit lead, and a Monmouth University poll released just a week before election day had Murphy leading Ciattarelli by 11 points in the New Jersey gubernatorial race.2
This was a very impressive showing by the Republican challenger considering there are more than one million more registered Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey.3 In his concession speech on November 12, 2021, Jack Ciattarelli declared that he will once again run for governor in 2025.4
In his re-election speech, Governor Murphy said, “If you want to understand where America is heading, look to New Jersey. And, if you want to be Governor for all of New Jersey, you must listen to all of New Jersey. And New Jersey, I hear you.”5 The Governor has said that his next term will focus on fulfilling his campaign promises to enact a Reproductive Freedom Act to codify Roe v. Wade in the state, enact additional gun control laws and expand taxpayer-financed pre-K schooling for three-year-olds.6
New Jersey Legislative Election Recap
New Jersey Democrats will retain control of both the State Senate and Assembly; however, Republicans have flipped seven seats in the New Jersey Legislature, making it their most successful legislative election in 30 years.7 Overall, Republicans picked up six seats in the Assembly and one in the State Senate, with the most gains in South Jersey. Most shocking about these gains is that Democrats outspent Republicans by about three to one and had more than four times the cash on hand for the final stretch.8
In 2022, Democrats will still have a majority, but it will be smaller. In the Senate, they now hold 24 of the 40 seats, down one seat from the previous legislative session. In the Assembly, they now hold 46 of the 80 seats, down from 52 seats in the previous session.
The wave swept even powerful State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland) out of office. Defeating him was truck driver Edward Durr of Logan Township, Gloucester County, who has run for office before but had never gotten a major party nomination or won a race.
In one of the most expensive legislative races, over $6.7 million,8 Republican Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield upset State Senator Dawn Marie Addiego, a former colleague turned Democrat, to win the 8th Legislative District election race by 1,682 votes, according to officially certified results from three counties. The 8th District, traditionally a GOP stronghold, covers mainly Burlington County but also encompasses some towns in Camden and Atlantic counties.
Democrats will have a net loss of only one seat because Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker beat Republican former Congressman Michael Pappas for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman in Central Jersey’s 16th District. Republicans had held the seat for 48 years, though the district has been becoming bluer in recent years.9
Additional legislative races for Assembly seats ousted several incumbent candidates:
- Republicans Marilyn Piperno and Kim Eulner ousted incumbent Democratic Assembly members Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling by a razor-thin margin in Monmouth County’s 11th Legislative District.
- Republicans Don Guardian, a former Atlantic City mayor, and Claire Swift defeated incumbent Democratic Assemblyman John Armato and Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick in South Jersey’s 2nd District. Fitzpatrick was running to succeed incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, who ran unsuccessfully for the district’s Senate seat.
- Republicans Bethanne McCarthy-Patrick and Beth Sawyer ousted incumbent Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro in South Jersey’s 3rd District.
With the loss of Senate President Sweeney, the Senate Democrats elected Senator Nicolas Scutari (D-Linden) as the next Senate President,10 the second-most powerful position in state government, giving him control over which legislation the Senate votes on and which of the Governor’s nominees receive confirmation hearings. This plays a significant role in shaping the state’s politics and policies. A lawyer by trade, Scutari was elected to the Senate in 2004 and in the last 12 years has led the Judiciary Committee. He was at the forefront of New Jersey’s legalization of recreational marijuana.
Senator Scutari announced his diverse leadership team, with Senator Teresa Ruiz, (D-Essex) chosen to become Senate Majority Leader, replacing Loretta Weinberg (who retired in January), and Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson) appointed the Senate President Pro Tempore.
Senate Republicans elected Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) to serve as Minority Leader of the caucus.11 Senator Oroho was unopposed for the position that was being vacated by Tom Kean, Jr., (R-Westfield), the Senate Minority Leader for the last 14 years. Senator Kean did not run for the Legislature again and will challenge Representative Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in the 2022 mid-term elections for a congressional seat.
In the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) was re-elected to a third term as Speaker,12 becoming the state’s longest-serving lower Democratic lower house leader. Once he completes his next term, Coughlin will have tied Jack Collins, a Republican, as the longest-serving Assembly Speaker in state history: six years. Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees) will also get a third term. Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) will return for a second term as Majority Conference Leader.
Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Warren) was elected by Assembly Republicans as the new Minority Leader, replacing Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) who will be moving up to the Senate to replace Senator Kean. Assemblyman Ned Thomson (R-Wall) will be the Republican Conference Leader, and Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-Ocean City) was picked for Minority Whip.13
On December 21, 2021, Governor Murphy signed legislation (S-2559) that extends for the next two years the requirement adopted at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic that health benefits plans reimburse healthcare providers for telehealth and telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person services, with limited exceptions.14
At the same time, the legislation charges the Department of Health with conducting an in-depth study of the utilization of telehealth and telemedicine and its effects on patient outcomes, quality and satisfaction, and access to care in order to inform future decisions on payment structure for these services. This law will provide critical continued support to patients, while the Department of Health evaluates how to best leverage payment and telemedicine to improve access to affordable care and maintain the highest quality of care possible.14
Telehealth was widely used for people to maintain their connections to their doctors and mental health therapists in the first year of the pandemic when people were ordered to stay home as much as possible. The State Department of Banking and Insurance issued a bulletin that required insurance carriers to reimburse telehealth visits at the same rate as office visits, including first-time Medicaid users.15 That order was set to expire on January 11, 2022. This law will extend that period by at least two years.
Prime sponsor of the law, Senator Gopal, said, “As of now, the pay parity for telehealth is to remain in effect until December 31, 2023. However, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the many benefits of telehealth, with virtual appointments having been crucial in ensuring patients receive the proper care they need.” He added, “Telehealth has proved to be cost-effective and it works, but it is important that we continue to guarantee that these virtual appointments are equal to those that are held in person.”16
Virginia Election Recap
Republicans claimed the governorship of Virginia for the first time since 2009 in electing businessman Glenn Youngkin over former Governor Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe, who has long been a fixture of Democratic Party establishment politics, previously served as the Governor from 2014 to 2018 and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005.17
Republicans swept other statewide races, with Winsome Sears capturing Lieutenant Governor and State Representative Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) capturing Attorney General. Sears becomes the first Black woman elected statewide in Virginia, and Miyares is the first Latino. Democrats held a 55-45 majority in the House prior to the election, but Republicans flipped seven seats to give themselves a 52-48 majority.18 Democrats still hold a 21-19 majority in the Senate, where elections won’t be held until 2023, splitting control of Virginia’s State Legislature.19