by LINDA MOSS
Phil Murphy, a millionaire former Wall Street executive, secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in November, to be pitted against Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in the general election.
Statewide, Murphy won 49 percent of his party’s votes in Tuesday’s primary election with 98 percent of precincts reporting, totaling 237,226, according to The New York Times. Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive, ex-finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany.
Montclair Democrat Jim Johnson was the runner-up, receiving 107,905 votes (21.9 percent). He was a federal treasury official under President Bill Clinton.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), finished in third place with 106,789 votes, or 21.7 percent, while State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-20) had 23,883, or 5 percent, The Times said.
In the statewide GOP primary race, Guadagno managed to overcome the taint of Gov. Chris Christie’s rocky tenure, which included the Bridgegate scandal and a close alliance with President Trump, before and after his election to the Oval Office. She won a runaway victory with 47 percent of the vote, more than 111,900 votes cast.
She was followed by Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), with 31 percent, or 74,328; Hirsh Singh, an aerospace executive and engineer from Atlantic County, garnered 10 percent, or 23,326; Joseph Rullo, an actor from Ocean County, won 6.5 percent, or 15,556; and Steven Rogers, a Nutley Township Commissioner had 6 percent, or 13,919 votes.
In Essex County, with roughly 94 percent of the precincts reporting as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Murphy garnered 56 percent of the votes, or 34,647.
He was followed by Johnson, who tallied 29 percent, or 17,757 votes. Wisniewski received roughly 11 percent, or 7,052 votes, followed by Lesniak, with 1,068 votes, or 2 percent; former Teaneck firefighter William Brennan, with 852, or 1.4 percent; and Mark Zinna, president of the Tenafly Borough Council, with 167, or 0.3 percent.
Democratic turnout exceeded 26 percent in Essex County, far exceeding the turnout for the 2013 governor’s primary, when just 16 percent of county Democrats voted.
But Guadagno didn’t beat Ciattarelli in Essex County.
In the GOP race for that party’s gubernatorial candidate, Ciattarelli outperformed Guadagno, winning 2,927, or 43 percent, of the Essex vote versus her 29 percent, or 1,984 votes. They were followed by: Rogers, with 969 votes, or 14 percent; Singh, with 665 votes, or 10 percent; and Rullo, awith 242 votes, or 3.5 percent.
The county website as of Tuesday night didn’t break out election figures for Montclair.
In the township, some of the voters who did turn up at the polls were adamant about the importance of casting their ballots in the primary.
“It’s my right to decide who I would like to have,” said Mabel Squire, a Democrat. “ And if you don’t come [to vote], then don’t complain.”
She voted at Trinity Presbyterian Church, a Fourth Ward poll, as did Howard Mills, a Democrat who said that he gave Murphy his vote.
“I vote in all the elections,” he said. “Even if I like ’em [the candidates] or not, I vote.”
As for his support of Murphy, Mills said, “Get rid of Christie and his crowd.”
Gregory Peniston was also at the church polling place, and said it’s important to vote in primaries, citing the struggle that a noted civil-rights activist went through for African-Americans to exercise their right to vote.
“Fannie Lou Hamer went through a lot of grief, down in Mississippi with the civil rights cause, she went through so much grief, I said the least I can do is vote,” Peniston said. “There are so many who can’t vote, and didn’t vote, but now have the ability to vote.”
He said that he voted the straight Democratic party line on the ballot, including Murphy as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in November.
At the United Way building on South Fullerton Avenue, Democrat Andre Blake said that the primaries are important.
“I came out to vote because unfortunately everybody thinks that it’s just about the big election, the presidential election,” he said. “But as you can see by the current climate that we live in, these smaller elections count … I don’t like what I see in politics right now. I’m just trying to exercise my rights that were so greatly fought for.”
At the same polling place, Ruth Frankel said that this primary was particularly important because only two states this year, New Jersey and Virginia, have gubernatorial races this year.
“I always do [vote in primaries], because I think it does matter in the end. I think that you have to have a voice in the primary, too, particularly this year,” Frankel said. “This year I think there’s a lot at stake. And the person I voted for I know of. I know his background and I’ve liked him. And I certainly don’t want to give you the name because I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for.”
Kate Webber was another voter at the United Way location.
“Why voting [in the primary]?” she said. “Just because I’ve always thought it’s really important to vote and I want to send a message that people care, especially this day and age of Trump being our president. So it feels even more important as a result. And also, I have kids and I want to set an example to them, too, so I’d say that’s mostly the reason.”