By LINDA MOSS
It couldn’t have been a more celebratory Election Night at the Democratic campaign headquarters in Montclair Tuesday, with gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy winning by a large margin in town and hometown politicians Brendan Gill and Nia Gill getting re-elected.
As the polls predicted statewide, former Wall Street executive Murphy — with his progressive platform — defeated Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno in her quest to succeed her boss, Gov. Chris Christie.
The Montclair Democratic County Committee did its own unofficial vote count at party headquarters on Bloomfield Avenue, and with all but six of the township’s 35 districts being accounted for, Murphy had a 9-to-1 sweep — 8,994 votes to Guadagno’s 994.
In preliminary vote tallies from Essex County election officials, in Montclair Murphy received 10,297 votes, or 88 percent, to Guadagno’s 1,211, or 10 percent. By comparison, statewide Murphy garnered 56 percent of the vote versus Guadagno’s 42 percent, according to NJ.com.
In Montclair Murphy performed best in the Fourth Ward, garnering 93 percent of the vote to Guadagno’s 5 percent. Guadagno had her biggest success in the First Ward, where she received 15 percent of the vote compared with Murphy’s 83 percent.
There were only two gubernatorial races Tuesday, in New Jersey and Virginia, and they were being closely watched as bellwethers of the strength, or weakness, of the GOP and President Donald Trump and his agenda. The Democrats in both states won, with Ralph Northam besting the GOP’s Ed Gillespie in Virginia.
Locally Brendan Gill won re-election to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, as well, and that wasn’t his only good news Tuesday night. Gill was Murphy’s campaign manager, crafting the strategy that got the U.S. former ambassador to Germany elected. Gill wasn’t in Montclair Tuesday night, but rather at the Convention Hall in Atlantic City for the governor-elect’s victory party.
A TV was on at the Montclair headquarters, and the several dozen people there broke into cheers shortly after 8 p.m. when media outlets declared Murphy the election winner. There was also cheering and hollering when Gill was interviewed about the gubernatorial campaign in Montclair on NJTV.
But State Sen. Nia Gill, 34th District, was in the house at the Montclair headquarters, savoring her re-election, to her third term.
Murphy’s victory “says we are tired of Chris Christie, we repudiate Trump and that we will be as we’ve always been, a progressive state,” according to Gill.
Brendan Gill couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night. But at the Montclair headquarters people watched the lengthy interview he gave to NJTV.a
“Phil is an inclusive leader, and that clearly came across during the campaign, and that’s in sharp contrast to the leadership style that we have had over the past seven years in Trenton,” Gill said, also denying that the state was divided.
“I think this is one New Jersey and Phil has made it clear that he wants to be a governor that represents all 9 million of its residents,” Gill said. “That’s part of the problem and a lot of what we talked about in this campaign, the us-versus-them, the have-and-the-have-nots. We want to get away from that type of style of leadership and make sure that we have a leader who seeks each and every day to represent all 9 million of us.”
“I think we worked the state top to bottom in every single county, in all 21 counties, and in fact something that Phil talked about all the time was reaching out to counties, to kind of make counties go from red to blue from his days at the DNC [Democratic National Committee],” Gill said. “So I think you’ll find that this was a campaign when it’s all said and done and evaluated, that’s going to be known for its ability to reach out to all types of constituencies across the state.”
Murphy’s biggest challenge and priority will be getting New Jersey’s economy back on track, according to Gill.
“That was our message throughout this entire campaign from Day One,” he said.
Murphy’s running mate for Lt. governor was Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, 34th District, and now a replacement will have to be chosen for her seat in the Legislature.
Kathryn Weller-Demming, a member of the local Democratic committee and a former Township Council member, tallied votes at the headquarters.
“The most exciting part about tonight’s victory is the progressive agenda that Phil and Sheila set, and the difference that this is going to make in the lives of so many students, so many working people,” Weller-Demming said.
“We’re going to have whole economies coming to grow our state after we’ve lagged behind with a record – God what are we up to now, 11 credit downgrades?” she said. “We’re going to finally have a governor who cares more about the people of New Jersey than himself. And I just have to hand it to Brendan for running such a strong, grassroots campaign on such a progressive platform.”
The visitors who stopped by the Montclair headquarters included Cary Booker II, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s brother, William Harrison, chair of the Township Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Gray Russell, the township’s sustainability officer.