Click play for audio version of this story
Gov. Phil Murphy sought to minimize Democrats losses on Tuesday, pointing to victories at a local level while saying outright that candidates who did not embrace his agenda suffered for it.
“The folks who were not in that same neighborhood in terms of the agenda that they ran on, not in that stronger and fairer path, for the most part — these are broad generalizations — but for the most part, they did either less well, they weren’t as competitive or they lost,” Murphy said.
Yesterday, Democrats lost a State Senate seat for the first time in 12 years after Cumberland County Republican Chairman Michael Testa defeated State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak.
The first district’s Assembly candidates, Assemblymen Bruce Land and Matt Milam, lost to Testa’s running mates, Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan and Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and John Armato’s race hasn’t been called yet.
The race in the second district will come down to vote by mail and provisional ballots, and Democrats may lose another two Assembly seats there.
Democratic candidates in both of those districts bend towards Murphy’s right.
Andrzejczak’s team bent so far to the right that it was difficult at times to tell whether the district’s incumbents or their challengers belonged to the Republican party.
Despite that, Murphy would not say outright that his comments were targeted at Andrzejczak and his running mates.
“I would say as a general matter, and let there be no doubt, I’m the titular head of the party,” Murphy said. “I wanted Democrats to win, including in the first district, but I think as a general matter, if you were running with conviction and with substance on that stronger and fairer agenda that works for everybody and not just for some … for the most part, around the state, if you were closer to that agenda, you were either performing ahead of expectations or you were competitive or you were winning.”
Democrats made no Assembly pickups this year.
Murphy sought to minimize those losses too.
“I didn’t say it was a litmus test for winning though, Mike,” he said. “I said it was either you won or you were competitive where you otherwise wouldn’t have been or you performed better than expectation, and they were highly competitive and came close to winning in a district against incumbents, including the minority leader, in a district that is an away game for us. We wouldn’t have even considered playing there not even five years ago.”