There was no real path to Jack Ciattarelli winning the 2021 New Jersey governor’s race without flipping Middlesex County, a mostly-suburban, heavily blue-collar Democratic stronghold in Central Jersey that Republican Chris Christie won by 4,774 votes when he ousted Gov. Jon Corzine twelve years ago.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy received 116,352 votes in Middlesex County, a 15.4% increase over his 2017 raw vote total and a 1.5% decease from the percentage of his margin against Kim Guadagno. Murphy won by 26,055 votes, 55.7% to 43.3%.
Against Guadagno, Murphy had a 29,907-vote plurality, 57.2% to 40.3%. Ciattarelli received more actual votes than Guadagno in 24 of 25 municipalities and tied her in Plainsboro.
Ciattarelli carried eight towns over Murphy: Helmetta, Milltown, Old Bridge, Sayreville, South Amboy, South Plainfield, South River and Spotswood.
That is one of the keys to the recent election: while Murphy won by 11 points less than he did four years ago, Ciattarelli wasn’t able to flip any of the big anchor towns that Christie won in 2009.
Christie carried Edison by 1,546 against Corzine, but Murphy won it by 4,800 votes. With a hotly-contested mayoral race, turnout was up 14.7% in Edison this year. In 2017, Murphy carried Edison by 4,071.
Murphy won Woodbridge by 1,218 votes against Ciattarelli; he had won it by 3,238 votes four years ago and Christie carried the township by 1,958 votes in 2009. Voters returned to the Democratic column and State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) carried his hometown by 4,680 votes.
East Brunswick went for Murphy by 1,319 votes, about the same as his 1,395-vote margin four years ago. In 2009, Christie beat Corzine there by 2,006 votes. In the 2017 election, East Brunswick produced 12,010 votes; this year, the total vote was 15,678 – a 30% increase.
Murphy beat Ciattarelli in Monroe, one of the few large suburban towns in New Jersey that has been trending from blue to red over the last few years. Monroe gave the governor an 868-vote win, down from 3,011 in 2017, but Christie had carried the 507. Democrats won a competitive mayoral race there by ten points.
Ciattarelli flipped Sayreville by 899 votes; Murphy had carried it by 135 votes four years ago and Christie beat Corzine there by 1,689.
New Brunswick’s Murphy margin was down by 505 votes and four percentage points, and Perth Amboy went from a 3,585 vote plurality for Murphy in 2017 to 2,733 this year with 67 more votes cast in 2021.
But Highland Park gave Murphy a massive 2,451-vote, 77.6% win – up from 2,040 votes and 68.9% in the last election.
Murphy picked up votes in Piscataway, where his 5,323-vote win (69.7%) was 736 votes more than his 2017 showing.
The exception for the Ciattarelli came in Old Bridge, where he scored a 2,949-vote win over Murphy. Ciattarelli received 3,614 more votes that Guadagno did when she topped Murphy by 640 votes; the Republican gubernatorial percentage jumped from 51% to 57%.
In addition to Old Bridge and Monroe, Ciattarelli received more votes than Christie in Helmetta, Sayreville, South Amboy, South River and Spotswood.
Dunellen was the only Middlesex municipality that went for Guadagno in 2017 and Murphy in 2018. Guadagno carried it by 9 votes and Murphy won it by 45.