After Democrats lose seats on election night, Murphy looks for silver linings

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy wanted to point out the silver linings around the clouds everyone else seemed to be seeing in the results of Tuesday’s midterm races.

“Let me say up front that I’m a pig. I’m competitive, so I want to win them all. Let there be no question about that,” he said. “We had a lot of successes in the Assembly. I mentioned 11, 16 and 38, which were not only not reliable blue a couple of years ago, two of those districts were straight red.”

At the moment, though, Republicans have picked up two seats in the Assembly with the two seats in District 2 still pending an official call. They also flipped the lone Senate seat that was on the ballot.

For a party that had lost seats in the last two statewide elections, there was a sense among the GOP leadership today that they’d not only stopped the bleeding but were newly resurgent. No one embodied that chest-out demeanor more than Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick.

“The longer Phil Murphy’s the governor, the closer the gap will be between Republicans and Democrats in the state,” said Bramnick. “The governor had a veto-proof majority. He no longer has that.”

Murphy says Republicans today are doing a touchdown dance on an increasingly shorter field of play, meaning that in local races like Hamilton Township and Somerset County, Democrats were winning big.

“We had big results yesterday at the county and local levels, again, in places that we historically have not had our folks winning,” said Murphy. “Even in District 21, where we came close but didn’t win in the Assembly, we took three out of the four council seats.”

Bramnick was having none of it. “I think it’s a big mistake, if you come into Westfield, and try to defeat me, Jon Bramnick, and you traveled with Assembly Democrats and you’re losing seats in the state Legislature, the Legislature is what’s connected to the governor, not a Somerset County race,” he said. “No one’s voting in a Somerset County race because they like or dislike Phil Murphy.”

Murphy, though, says those victories are a clear sign that his philosophy of stronger and fairer for all is resonating with voters. Bramnick says he’s OK if the governor keeps thinking that way.

New Jersey Democrats have a well-earned reputation for pulling defeat from the jaws of victory, and while the governor was crowing about moral victories further down the ballot, Republicans are pointing to their gains in the legislature – looking at the next governor’s race – and licking their chops.