TRENTON (N.J.) -- New Jersey's longtime senator president, Democrat Steve Sweeney, lost reelection to a Republican newcomer, who spent very little money and underscored Democratic woes during the Biden era.
According to Thursday's results, Edward Durr, a truck driver for furniture companies, beat Sweeney in New Jersey’s 3rd Legislative District.
Sweeney's defeat came as a surprise and has made it difficult to predict the future of the state government.
Loretta Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader, stated in an interview that "it is astonishing and shocking and it is not clear to me why."
His defeat occurred in a politically competitive suburban Philadelphia area where counties split votes between Republicans and Democrats in the 2016 presidential election and again in 2020.
It coincided with an increase in GOP turnout, even in an off year election that saw Republicans gain across the state. Durr's win Thursday was about 3% greater than Sweeney's 2017 victory in unofficial returns.
Sweeney was also interested in tight Senate races elsewhere within the state.
Steve Oroho, the incoming Republican Senate Leader, said that he didn't think it was Steve Sweeney. "I believe it was due to the message that came from people annoyed by all the executive orders, all the mandates, and sick and tired being told what they could and couldn't do."
This loss speaks volumes about the challenges Democrats face after losing the governor's election in Virginia and narrowly winning the New Jersey Governor race. Experts said Phil Murphy will be facing Republican Jack Ciattarelli.
Brigid Harrison, Montclair State University political science professor, said that this was a protest vote against Murphy and the Biden administration. "Steve was in many aspects how people expressed their dissatisfaction with the larger political system."
Sweeney stated in a statement that he would wait for more votes before acknowledging his loss.
"While I am currently in the lead, we want every vote to be counted. He said that our voters deserve it and that he would wait to see the final results.
Sweeney was the Senate president from 2010 to 2010. He was responsible for leading Democratic Gov. The Legislature passed Phil Murphy's progressive agenda, which included a $15 an hour minimum wage and paid sick leave, as well as legalizing recreational marijuana.
His high-profile reverse on gay marriage is another highlight of his career. Sweeney stated in 2011 that he made "the biggest mistake of my legislative career" by voting against marriage equality.
He reached a deal with Christie to reform public worker's pensions. This put Sweeney in conflict with public sector unions. They would later become major supporters of Murphy.
Progressive Democrats from Southern New Jersey cheered Sweeney’s defeat, seeing him as a product transactional, machine politics.
Sue Altman, director at New Jersey Working Families tweeted, "Today's glorious." Altman has been a critic of Sweeney for a while and believes that he is focused on maintaining control over the Democratic party, especially in southern New Jersey.
According to his allies, he was open-minded and delivered the goods for the left.
"I believe he was a remarkable senator, Senate president, and I have often reminded progressive friends that we could never have gotten all those bill on Gov. Weinberg stated that Murphy was able to sign the bill without the assistance of the Senate president.
Sweeney has faced opposition electorally before. Sweeney's feud with the state’s largest teacher's union over pension benefits, among other issues, led to a fight in which the New Jersey Education Association spent millions trying to defeat Sweeney. The union's efforts failed.
According to an Election Law Enforcement Commission document, Durr won this year and spent $2,300. Reports from earlier years had indicated that he spent only $153.31 on his campaign.
Durr has received messages seeking comments.
Durr describes himself both as a 2nd Amendment rights advocate, fiscally conservative, and a supporter of lower taxes. He spoke out about how unlikely he thought his victory was in an interview with NJ.com. Although he has unsuccessfully run for the state Assembly in 2017-2019, this is his first election to that position.
Durr stated Wednesday afternoon that he joked with people about his plans to shock the world and beat this man. I was joking, but it was true. What chance could a person like me stand up against him? He is literally the second most powerful person in New Jersey."
Sweeney, an ironworker by trade, has been an executive at the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, Reinforcing Iron Workers. He is also an ally and friend to George Norcross, a Democratic power broker who is widely considered to be the most powerful non-elected person in the state.
It is not clear who will be the next Senate president. If Democrats retain control of the chamber as incompletion results suggest they could, then Democratic senators meet to elect their next leader.
The 3rd Legislative district covers parts of Cumberland and Salem counties.
The state Assembly was controlled by Democrats with 52 seats compared to the 28 held by Republicans. The Democrats held 25 seats in the state Senate to the Republicans' 15.Updated Date: 04 November 2021, 17:20