Nearly ten days after the first votes came in on election night, Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli conceded to Gov. Phil Murphy today, acknowledging that he no longer saw a path to victory with few votes left to be counted.
“I called Governor Murphy earlier today and congratulated him on his re-election, and wished him well in serving the people of New Jersey,” Ciattarelli said at a press conference in Raritan Borough, standing next to his wife Melinda and lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Diane Allen.
“Earlier today I received a phone call from Assemblyman Ciattarelli congratulating us on our victory,” Murphy said in a statement released soon afterwards. “I thank the Assemblyman, his wife Melinda, and his family for a spirited campaign and their commitment to public service.”
The concession comes well after most news outlets called the race; the Associated Press did so the day after Election Day, and Murphy declared victory that night. In the week since, the Murphy campaign has grown steadily more critical of Ciattarelli’s refusal to concede, calling it “dangerous.”
But at last admitting defeat today, Ciattarelli still highlighted the closeness of the election – Murphy’s three-point victory was far tighter than Democrats and most independent analysts predicted – and said his campaign has allowed suppressed voices to be heard.
“The fact is, we almost did win,” he said. “Why? Because every single time misguided politicians take this state too far off track, the great people of this state push, pull, and prod it right back to where it belongs, right back to where it needs to be: the common-sense center. I do not see the result of this election as a failure.”
Ciattarelli insisted, however, that Murphy’s victory was a fair one, and that those who have called the election rigged – a relatively small group that does not include any elected Republican in New Jersey – are mistaken.
“I’m someone who believes strongly in our republic, and in our Democratic processes,” he said. “Enough votes have been counted, and there does not appear to be a path to victory, or the basis for a recount. Nor do we know of any systemic or widespread fraud. So no, I see no proof that this election was stolen.”
“Sadly, in our current climate, that slow count and constantly changing online numbers gives rise to doubts in the system, and unfounded conspiracy theories,” he continued, criticizing the state of election administration under Murphy. “That isn’t healthy.”
Answering questions from the press after his concession, Ciattarelli made possibly the biggest announcement of the day: He’ll be running for a third time come 2025, once Murphy is term-limited out and the governorship is an open race.
“That is exactly my plan,” Ciattarelli said. “I’ll be running for governor in four years.”
Such a campaign is still many years away from truly starting, but Ciattarelli said he thinks many of the problems the state faces under Murphy today will still be unsolved come 2025.
“I’m fearful that, when I announce for governor… we’ll be talking about these very same issues, and they’ll need fixing come four years from now,” he said.
This story was updated at 1:52 p.m. with a statement from Gov. Phil Murphy.