New Jersey Governor's Race Could Slip Into Recount Margin, GOP Candidate's Lawyer Says

While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy continues to lead Republican Jack Ciattarelli in votes for the gubernatorial race, Ciattarelli's lawyer said the margin between the two candidates could narrow enough to warrant a recount, the Associated Press reported. The AP declared Murphy as winner last week and other sources project a final victory by tens of thousands of votes, but Ciattarelli has so far declined to concede to the incumbent governor.

Though Murphy only led the race by less than a percentage point last week, his margin grew to about 2.6 points on Monday. That equates to a roughly 65,000-vote lead for Murphy, the AP reported.

Ciattarelli's campaign estimates that roughly 70,000 provisional votes, or ballots only counted after election officials confirm that the voter hasn't cast another ballot, remain uncounted. It is unknown how many mail-in ballots also remain uncounted.

Mark Sheridan, legal counsel for Ciattarelli, said in a statement that while the Republican's campaign doesn't expect to pass Murphy in the provisional vote count, "that count may reduce the margin for Governor Murphy enough to warrant a full recount."

Murphy gave a victory speech on Nov. 3 in Asbury Park, and wrote on his official campaign Twitter account that "we have made history tonight."

"Tonight, I renew my promise to you -- whether you voted for me or not -- to work every single day of the next four years to keep moving us forward," one tweet read.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jack Ciattarelli
While New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy continues to lead Republican Jack Ciattarelli in the gubernatorial race, Ciattarelli’s legal counsel said the margin between the two candidates could narrow enough to warrant a recount. Above, Ciattarelli speaks at his election night party in Bridgewater, N.J., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Stefan Jeremiah/AP Photo

Ciattarelli's campaign denied Monday that there was fraud in this year's governor's election.

"Let me be clear, no one on this team is alleging fraud or malfeasance, as we have not seen any credible evidence of that," Sheridan said in the statement.

But Sheridan added that this year's new election law, which in part allowed early in-person voting for the first time, is also contributing to what he called "excruciatingly slow vote counting."

Each of New Jersey's 21 counties are conducting their own count of any mail-in and provisional ballots left to be counted. The state Board of Canvassers doesn't meet until Dec. 2 to certify the results.

Ciattarelli is a former Assembly member who campaigned on a mix of traditional issues, like lowering the state's high property taxes, as well as against COVID-19 mandates.

Murphy became that first Democrat to win re-election as governor in 44 years. He focused principally on the progressive agenda he delivered in his first term, including higher taxes on the wealthy and a boosted minimum wage, among other programs.

On Monday, Murphy called on Ciattarelli to concede, saying the race was run fairly and transparently. He said every vote would be counted.

"But when it's mathematically impossible to win, I think it's dangerous. I think it's bigger than winning or losing. It sort of gets to the question of what it is to be an American and respect for the institutions that we count on as a society, including democracy. This is what America is all about," he said.

Under state law, there is no automatic recount and the party seeking one must file a suit in state Superior Court in each county where they want to request a recount.

Ciattarelli said last week that it was too early to concede the election or declare victory. He also urged supporters not to believe unfounded conspiracies and said the result — no matter the outcome — would be fair.

Murphy's victory was a bright spot for Democrats nationally, though the party lost the Virginia governor's race even after President Joe Biden carried the state by double digits in last year's election against Donald Trump.

Despite Murphy's win, Republicans had an unexpected and important victory in the Legislature, defeating Senate President Steve Sweeney and stunning officials across the state.

Murphy Gives Victory Speech
Phil Murphy was the first Democratic governor of New Jersey to win re-election in more than four decades. Murphy celebrates after delivering a victory speech to supporters at Grand Arcade at the Pavilion on November 3, 2021, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images