Live Blog: New Jersey Votes in Gubernatorial Primaries

Real-time coverage of the New Jersey gubernatorial primaries on June 6, 2017.

11:12 p.m.: See You Tomorrow

This live blog may be wrapping up for the night, but our coverage of the races will continue tomorrow. Thanks for following and be sure to check out our stories on Murphy’s win and Guadagno’s.

— Salvador Rizzo, Alyana Alfaro and Christian Hetrick

11:10 p.m.: Guadagno Takes the Torch From Christie

Kim Guadagno. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Republican voters have spoken and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will be on the November ballot as her party’s nominee for New Jersey governor after withstanding a tough challenge from Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. She will face an uphill climb in November in the race against Murphy, experts say.

— Alyana Alfaro

9:55 p.m.: Murphy Accepts the Nomination

Phil Murphy accepts the nomination. Salvador Rizzo for Observer

“People all across the state are demanding change, and I am here to change things,” Murphy said at an election night party at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, joined onstage by his wife Tammy and four children.

“Four more years of Christie-style politics won’t make New Jersey the state where we draw the line against Donald Trump, but we will,” he said, a jab at his Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. “New Jersey cannot afford a governor who has been complicit in the failure that have left families struggling.”

— Salvador Rizzo

9:45 p.m.: The Race for Second Place Is On

Jim Johnson and John Wisniewski are running neck-and-neck in the contest for second in the Democratic primary. They both ran as outsiders (although Wisniewski is a former state party chairman and Johnson was a high-flying official at the U.S. Treasury under Bill Clinton and a partner at the powerhouse New York law firm Debevoise and Plimpton).

With 56 percent of the vote in, Johnson had 22.1 percent of the vote and Wisniewski 21.2 percent, according to the New York Times.

— Salvador Rizzo

9:23 p.m.: Guadagno Wins GOP Primary, AP Says

Kim Guadagno. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

It’s an early night. The Associated Press just called the Republican primary in the governor’s race for Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

— Salvador Rizzo

9:03 p.m.: AP Calls It for Murphy

Phil Murphy. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

— Salvador Rizzo

9 p.m.: Polls Are Closed

The voting is over, and the (very) early returns show Guadagno and Murphy in the lead.

Guadagno is leading Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli 52 percent to 26 percent with 6 percent of precincts reporting, according to the New York Times.

On the Democratic side, Murphy is ahead with 47.7 percent of the vote, with 6 percent of precincts reporting. Assemblyman John Wisniewski has 21.8 percent of the vote, former U.S. Treasury undersecretary Jim Johnson has garnered 16.9 percent, and state Sen. Ray Lesniak is carrying 7.3 percent.

In Hudson County, incumbent Assembly Democrats Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Angela McKnight, who were facing primary challengers, were leading by wide margins.

A spokesman for their campaigns, Phil Swibinski, said they “won today’s primary overwhelmingly” after overcoming “an avalanche of outside spending.”

— Christian Hetrick

6:10 p.m.: Other Races We’re Watching

The governor’s race may be the biggest show in town, but some key down-ballot races will have big ramifications for the state. Some of the races we’re watching include:

One of the city’s representatives in the state Assembly, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, is facing a primary challenge from Demcorat Kristen Zadroga-Hart.

Four Democrats are vying to get the party’s nomination for the mayor’s race in November. The lead candidates are Councilman Frank Gilliam, who has the party’s backing and has the top ballot position, and Council President Marty Small. Two other candidates, Fareed Abdullah, a substitute teacher and former council candidate, and U.S. Navy veteran Jimmy Whitehead, are also in the mix. The winner gets to face off against incumbent Mayor Don Guardian, a Republican, in November. And the race will largely hinge on the resort’s recent financial troubles and how to move ahead from a state takeover that began in late 2016.

Council President Frank Moran is favored to win the primary, but he faces several challengers today, including Ray Lamboy, the president of Camden’s Latin American Economic Development Association, and a former photographer from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Longtime Mayor Dana Redd is retiring, and a Democrat is heavily favored to win this race.

LD 40
State Sen. Kevin O’Toole’s impending retirement set off a bitter succession battle between Passaic County Clerk Kristin Corrado and Bergen County Republican Chairman Paul DiGaetano. The winner of the GOP primary is heavily favored to win O’Toole’s seat in November.

LD 12
Incumbent state Sen. Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex) is facing a challenge from Art Haney, chairman of the Old Bridge Republican Party.

— Alyana Alfaro and Christian Hetrick

4:10 p.m.: The Front-Runners Cast Their Ballots

Phil Murphy. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer
Kim Guadagno. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

They have led in the polls for months and had their designs on the governorship for probably much longer. Two Monmouth County residents, Phil Murphy and Kim Guadagno, cast their ballots earlier today.

— Salvador Rizzo

3:55 p.m.: Wisniewski Predicting Low Turnout

John Wisniewski. Christian Hetrick for Observer

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), breaking the fourth wall a bit after voting in Sayreville this morning, predicted low turnout in the Democratic primary. That doesn’t bode well for candidates not named Phil Murphy, who will benefit from having the “county line,” or the prime ballot position, in every part of the state.

“It’s going to be low,” Wisniewski said. “And I would encourage everybody who’s listening regardless of how you feel about the candidates or who you’re going to vote, just go out and vote and make your voice heard.”

However, Wisniewski argued that “the most recent statewide polls show 50 percent of the electorate is still undecided.” And he took yet another shot at Murphy’s campaign spending, which had reached $20 million as of May 23. “We see that money doesn’t buy an election,” he said. “Money is just another obstacle to overcome.”

— Christian Hetrick

3:40 p.m.: Ciattarelli Still Has a Path. He Has “No Regrets.”

Jack Ciattarelli at his polling place. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Despite polls giving Guadagno the advantage (a Stockton University survey released last month gave her 37 percent of the vote to Ciattarelli’s 18 percent), the Somerset County assemblyman said he feels confident in the outcome and has “no regrets.”

“I feel very, very good,” Ciattarelli said just before he cast his ballot. “I think we are going to get the turnout we need to get the victory. I am really proud of our effort, I am proud of our campaign.”

Ciattarelli turned up to his sleepy Hillsborough polling location this afternoon with his wife Melinda and their four children — three of which were eligible to vote.

“If we win by four votes or less, chalk it up to the Ciattarellis,” he joked.

Political science professor Ben Dworkin of Rider University said that despite polls favoring Guadagno, Ciattarelli does have a path to victory and could end the night pulling off a huge upset. But to get it done, he will need to turn out his voters in large numbers.

“There are three keys to a Ciattarelli victory,” Dworkin said. “First, he has to over-perform in counties where he has the line like Somerset and Mercer. Second, he has to keep Guadagno’s margins small in the counties where she is likely to win such as Ocean and Monmouth. And three, he needs to win big in Morris County.”

Twelve percent of the total Republican primary vote is expected to come from Morris County, he added.

— Alyana Alfaro

3:30 p.m.: Christie Votes for Guadagno

Gov. Chris Christie. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Although Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has worked for Christie for nearly eight years, the governor had remained neutral in the primary contest between her and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerset). The two Republicans have been critical of each other over the last year after Guadagno began to distance herself from her unpopular boss.

But Ciattarelli was an even tougher critic of Christie’s on the campaign trail, and Christie said he ended up voting for Guadagno.

“I’ve worked with her for eight years and I believe she’s the best person in the Republican primary to represent the party in the fall and to retain the governorship,” Christie said after voting in Mendham, according to Politico.

— Salvador Rizzo

3:15 p.m.: We Are Live

The long wait is over. The debates are done. The chips are falling where they may. New Jersey Democrats and Republicans are casting their primary ballots as we speak and by the end of the day will have chosen their nominees for the fall campaign to replace Gov. Chris Christie.

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Normandy — and the start of a new era in Garden State politics.

Christie has been the dominant political personality in New Jersey for the better part of a decade, exploding onto the scene at first as a hard-charging, deal-cutting, smack-talking change agent who mesmerized not just the state but the national political media for years. He seemed otherworldly at first and destined for greatness, maybe even the presidency, which was very clearly in his sights since the beginning.

That was before he became ensnared in economic problems, hobbled by the George Washington Bridge scandal, and swallowed up by the Trump tidal wave when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. New Jersey residents now give him the lowest approval ratings of any governor since the dawn of polling.

And today, they begin to turn the page.

As any student of New Jersey politics will tell you, the prize is one of the most powerful governorships in the nation. The state constitution grants the governor enormous power over appointments, judicial nominations, the state budget, and bestows one of the most powerful veto pens.

The race will also have some national implications as one of the first major contests after President Trump’s election last year.

And also on the ballot today are a series of interesting primary battles for state Senate and Assembly seats and mayor’s offices in some key New Jersey cities.

Follow Observer’s New Jersey politics team as we update this live blog throughout the day with comprehensive blow-by-blow coverage of the elections.

And if you haven’t voted yet, here’s a quick guide of all the basics.

— Salvador Rizzo, Alyana Alfaro and Christian Hetrick

Live Blog: New Jersey Votes in Gubernatorial Primaries