The closest gubernatorial election in history occurred in Washington on November 2, 2004, when Republican Dino Rossi was declared the winner in the initial automated count and again in a subsequent automated recount, but after a second recount done by hand, Democrat Christine Gregoire took the lead by a margin of 129 votes.
The New Jersey gubernatorial election on November 3, 1981, resulted in Republican Thomas Kean narrowly defeating Democrat James Florio with 49.46% of the vote following a recount of the ballots. When the dust settled, Kean had 1,145,999 and Florio had 1,144,202, a margin of only 1,797.
Yesterday’s balloting may not be as close as Washington’s New Jersey voters could be in for a wait before learning the identity of the winner of the 2021 contest where—with 88 percent of the ballots tabulated—Republican Jack Ciattarelli leads with 1,173,558, or 49.65 percent, over Democratic incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy’s 1,172,365, or 49.60 percent.
Murphy reportedly had a solid lead against Ciattarelli, a former New Jersey Assemblyman who won the Republican nomination on his second try, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll published a day before the election, a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday, and two other surveys. The polls from Fairleigh-Dickinson University and the Stockton Polling Institute of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, showed Murphy with a nine-point lead over Ciattarelli going into the final days.
Murphy’s strategy of tying Ciattarelli to Trump was not enough to overcome his own glaring inadequacies and inconsistencies.
Green Party nominee Madelyn Hoffman, Libertarian candidate Gregg Mele, and Socialist Workers Party contender Joanne Kuniansky had no discernable impact on the contest, earning a combined total of less than one percent of the number of votes cast.
New Jersey has trended reliably Democratic in federal and local contests but has a history of voting against the party in the White House during its off-year gubernatorial races.
Mail-in ballots tallies in numerous counties were not reported Tuesday night, which could make significant difference in the outcome.
On top of the loss in Virginia, the close race in the Garden State— both states where President Joe Biden won by double digits in 2020—is a warning sign to Democrats hoping to maintain congressional majorities in next year’s midterm elections.