Jack Ciattarelli speaks to supporters at the Marriott in Bridgewater as election results show him neck-and-neck with Gov. Phil Murphy. Ciatterelli’s wife, Melinda, is by his side. (Amanda Brown for New Jersey Monitor)
After 10 days of counting ballots, Republican Jack Ciattarelli conceded the race for governor Friday afternoon to a crowd of supporters in his hometown of Raritan, saying he no longer had a path to victory after thousands of mail-in ballots were counted.
And just minutes later to resounding applause, the 59-year-old announced his plans to be on the ticket for governor again in 2025, which will mark his third time running to lead the Garden State.
“I say this to my supporters: let us continue to fight the good fight, let us harness our frustrations and focus our momentum on what made this campaign so very successful,” he said.
Ciattarelli, a former Assemblyman who launched his campaign for governor in January 2020, was behind Gov. Phil Murphy by about 74,000 votes, or nearly three percentage points, according to the Associated Press.
He said he called Murphy earlier in the day, wishing him luck in the next four years and exchanging blessings for their families. He said it went “extremely well,” and wants to see the governor succeed.
The tighter-than-expected race caught national attention as pundits pointed to a potential red wave after Republican Glen Youngkin beat Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and former governor in Virginia. And Republicans flipped the most seats in the state Legislature in 30 years, including a stunning upset in Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s race in South Jersey.
Despite the slim margin, the GOP challenger said he would not pursue a recount, emphasizing his faith in the secure election.
“I hate to lose,” Ciattarelli said. “But I’m also someone who believes strongly in our republic and our democratic processes. Enough votes have been counted. There does not appear to be a path to victory, or the basis for a recount.”
Still, he said the fact that votes are still being counted 10 days after Election Day “is a problem” and sows distrust in the system, fueling conspiracy theories. He called for election reforms and new strict reporting guidelines.
I want the governor to be successful in addressing the issues that are most important to New Jerseyans, but I just have this feeling there’s gonna be a lot of fixing to do four years from now.
– Jack Ciattarelli, Republican candidate for governor
He campaigned on lower taxes, affordable property taxes, public education and bringing businesses to New Jersey. Throughout the campaign, he attacked Murphy’s progressive policies, like a fund for undocumented immigrants, LGBT curriculum in schools and his aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Murphy attempted to tie him to former President Donald Trump, warning that the Republican would turn the state backwards and reverse his policies.
And although he lost, Ciattarelli said he doesn’t see the campaign as a failure, but one that reinvigorated New Jersey Republicans. Voters sent a powerful message not just to Trenton, but to the nation, he added.
Murphy, who declared victory 24 hours after Election Day when the race was called by the Associated Press, said in a statement that he would continue representing all New Jerseyans as the state recovers from the ongoing pandemic.
“Over the next four years, we will govern as we have since day one – committed to building a stronger and fairer New Jersey from the middle out and the bottom up. A state where everyone has a fair chance and opportunity is there for all. We will continue to stand with New Jersey’s middle class and everyone striving to get there,” he said in a statement.
Ciattarelli said he’ll stay involved in the Republican Party, gearing up to campaign for legislative seats that will be up in 2024.
“I want the governor to be successful in addressing the issues that are most important to New Jerseyans,” he said, “but I just have this feeling there’s gonna be a lot of fixing to do four years from now.”
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