A powerful Democratic leader is poised to suffer an embarrassing defeat to a Republican who ran an extremely low-key campaign in New Jersey.
Steve Sweeney, the New Jersey state Senate president, currently has 48 percent of the vote compared to Republican Edward Durr, who has 52 percent. Over 99 percent of precincts are reporting, but The Associated Press has yet to call the race, according to WCAU-TV.
Sweeney has served in the state Senate since 2002 and has been the president for the past 11 years.
In his 2017 re-election bid, Sweeney ran what was likely the most expensive legislative campaign in United States history, spending $18.7 million, Politico reported. He ended up winning that race with 59 percent of the vote.
By contrast, Durr is a truck driver who only spent $153 on his campaign.
Of the campaign cash, Durr spent $66.64 on Dunkin Donuts and the rest on fliers and business cards. He had raised more than $10,000.
“I joked with people and I said, ‘I’m going to shock the world, I’m going to beat this man,’” Durr said Wednesday, NJ.com reported.
“I was saying it, but really kind of joking. Because what chance did a person like me really stand against this man? He’s literally the second-most powerful person in the state of New Jersey.”
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) November 3, 2021
Considering Sweeney’s political power, the senate president’s ouster served as a jaw-dropping vote of no confidence by voters who are getting sick of the Democratic establishment in their state.
“I don’t know if I truly am fearless or stupid. Because who in their right mind would take on a person with that kind of power and clout?” Durr said. “But his power, his clout, did not scare me.”
It is uncommon for candidates with minimal name recognition to successfully take on high-ranking politicians, which adds another layer of a shock to Durr’s victory.
As always, there is a lesson to be learned here for future candidates.
While clout and money certainly boost a candidate’s efforts, those who focus on the community and connect with them by knocking on doors and making phone calls add icing to the cake.
Durr focused his messaging on being an average New Jersey father, and clearly that resonated with voters.
He was a true outsider who was humble in his pursuit to fight the establishment, and hopefully, he will use his new position to help the little guy.
Even in a broader sense, the frustration with the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress trickled down to statewide and local races last night.
New Jersey is seeing a tighter than expected gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli, which most outlets have not called yet.
Outside of the Garden State, Virginia Republicans also banked on the president’s unpopularity and local issues such as education in order to win top statewide offices.
Across the board, Tuesday was a devastating night for Democrats going into 2022.