New Jersey Incumbent Concedes to Truck Driver in Senate Race, Cites 'Red Wave' for Loss

New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney conceded Wednesday that he lost the election to Republican and commercial truck driver Edward Durr.

The election result left many New Jersey Democrats shocked, as they currently control the state New Jersey Legislature. The Associated Press reported that Sweeney attributed Durr's win to a "red wave" creating an overwhelming GOP turnout. Durr's margin of victory was about 2,000.

"I of course accept the results," Sweeney said during a speech at the statehouse complex Wednesday. "I want to congratulate Mr. Durr and wish him the best of luck."

AP noted that Sweeney spent about $305,000 on his campaign, while Durr spent about $2,300. Sweeney did not confirm to AP whether he would attempt to run again in the future, but he said he would continue to focus on "the things that are important to the people of this state."

"What the voters said in this election is New Jersey is a state filled with hard-working people who want to provide for their families and as leaders we need to speak directly to the concerns of all voters," Sweeney said. "I plan to keep speaking to those concerns."

Durr planned to speak about the results later Wednesday.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Steve Sweeney, New Jersey, elections
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, one of the most powerful elected officials in the state, conceded that he lost re-election to the state Senate. The Democrat lost to Republican political newcomer and commercial truck driver Edward Durr in South Jersey’s 3rd District. Above, Sweeney pauses to take questions from members of the media during a news conference in Trenton on November 10, 2021. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

His loss unfolded in a politically competitive suburban district that includes parts of Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties, which split their votes between Democrats and Republicans in the presidential elections in 2016 and again in 2020.

It also coincided with boosted GOP turnout in an off-year election that saw Republicans win across the state. Durr's victory, which AP declared Thursday, netted about 3 percent more votes than Sweeney did in 2017 in unofficial returns.

Sweeney's attention was also focused on tight Senate races elsewhere in the state.

Wednesday's speech was unusually formal for Sweeney, who stood before a lectern with the state seal, speaking in a quiet voice.

He sad he entered politics after his daughter Lauren was born prematurely and had developmental disabilities. He said he stayed with her in the hospital because he had good benefits at his job as a union ironworker.

"Twenty years later, I was able to make sure that all New Jersey parents had the same opportunity to be with their loved ones in their time of greatest need when the paid family leave bill I sponsored was signed into law," he said.

Sweeney has served as Senate president since 2010 and was responsible for shepherding Democratic Governor Phil Murphy's progressive agenda through the Legislature, including a phased-in $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick leave and recreational marijuana legalization.

He is also known for his high-profile reversal on opposition to same-sex marriage. Sweeney said in 2011 that he made the "biggest mistake of my legislative career" when he voted against marriage equality.

Though Sweeney was a fellow Democrat, he fought Murphy at the start of his administration over raising income taxes on the wealthy and worked closely with Republican Chris Christie during his eight-year term in office ending in 2018.

A deal he worked out with Christie to overhaul public worker pensions put Sweeney at odds with public-sector unions, who would go on to become key supporters of Murphy.

Though he has clashed with Sweeney, Murphy said last week he bemoaned the loss and said he didn't welcome the news.

Sweeney said he wouldn't be seeking a recount, which is not automatic in New Jersey and would have to be financed by the party seeking the tally.

Steve Sweeney, Edward Durr, New Jersey election
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney conceded that he lost re-election to the state Senate. Above, Sweeney speaks with members of the media during a news conference in Trenton on November 10, 2021. Matt Rourke/AP Photo