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Gov. Phil Murphy held a rally in Union City organized by Mayor Brian P. Stack on Saturday, June 5, 2021. (Photo: Murphy for Governor.)

Murphy breaks record for most votes ever cast in N.J. gubernatorial primary

Surpasses Florio ’89 by more than 84,000 votes

By David Wildstein, June 10 2021 12:04 pm

Phil Murphy easily broke a record on Tuesday, receiving the most votes of any candidate in the history of New Jersey gubernatorial primaries.

Murphy, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, received 334,560 votes – a number that is expected to increase as provisional and late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots are counted before the June 22 certification date.

The previous record was set by Gov. Jim Florio, who received 251,979 votes when he won the 1989 Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1989 with 68% against Princeton Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund and former Assembly Speaker Alan Karcher.   When he ran unopposed for re-election in1 993, he received 200,420 votes.

Florio received just slightly more votes than the 250,404 that James E. McGreevey received against one minor candidate in the 2001 gubernatorial primary.  Jon Corzine won 207,670 votes in 2005 and 154,448 in 2009.  When Florio ran in 1981 – he lost the general election to Tom Kean – he received 164,179 votes.

Kean received 151,259 votes in his unopposed bid for a second term in 1985.  Christine Todd Whitman received 159,76 when she ran for re-election without opposition in the 1997 primary.

The record on the Republican side belongs to Robert C. Hendrickson, a former Senate President from Woodbury who received 283,942 votes in his bid for the 1940 Republican nomination for governor.  He defeated former Gov. Harold Hoffman by 36,721 votes, 53.5% to 46.5%.

Turnout was higher because 1940 was a presidential election year and Republicans were electing delegates to a national convention.  Thomas Dewey won the New Jersey primary that year; he was unopposed on the ballot, but Wendell Willkie won 5% as a write-in candidate.   There was also a primary for an open U.S. Senate, along with 1/3 of the State Senate and the entire State Assembly.

After New Jersey ratified a new State Constitution in 1947, gubernatorial terms were changed from three years to four, so 1940 was the last time New Jerseyans elected a President and a Governor in the same election.

Second place on the Republican side belongs to Gov. Alfred Driscoll, who received 281,715 votes when he won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1946.  The former Camden County state senator defeated ex-Gov. Harold Hoffman a 58%-42% margin in that primary.

When he became the first governor to run for re-election in 1949 – until the new State Constitution, New Jersey governors were not permitted to serve two consecutive term – Driscoll received 207,144 votes when he defeated Somerset County Freeholder Robert Adams in the GOP primary with 69.5%.

In 1943, when former Gov. Walter Edge came back to retake the post, he first won in 1916, he received 227,253 votes in an unopposed primary.

When Gov. Chris Christie ran for re-election in 2013, he received 205,665 vote and 92% against former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman.  He won 184,085 when he ran for governor the first time in 2009.

Sixth place for GOP gubernatorial candidates belongs to former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, who polled 193,342 votes in his 57%-43% win in 2001.  He went on to lose to McGreevey.

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