WASHINGTON TWP. – New Jersey Senator-elect Edward Durr met the press Wednesday with his stunning upset of Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Nov. 2 now secure and undisputed.
Durr, a Logan Township resident and a truck driver, said only half jokingly he was so nervous about this appearance that he was afraid he might throw up.
However, he went on to confidently handle a range of questions, including about some social media missteps dredged up after the election.
Durr offered broad thanks for his win, citing support from gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli and party officials such as Cumberland County Freeholder Douglas Albrecht. County GOP Chair Jacci Vigilante and campaign consultant Steve Kush chaperoned the news conference, held at GOP headquarters.
"This was truly a team effort," Durr said. "Thank you especially to my running mates, Bethanne McCarthy Patrick and Beth Sawyer, who worked just as hard as I did, and they earned their victory, too.
"Here in Gloucester County, we won the first county races in over a decade," Durr said. "Two commissioners: Chris Konawel and Nick DeSilvio."
Durr highlights other GOP win
Durr also pointed out a Republican win in the Gloucester sheriff's race. Jonathan Sammons, the GOP nominee, also won and "that should be the story," he said.
Sawyer, a business owner and real estate agent, appeared toward the end of the news conference. She spoke briefly, reiterating that their slate found voters eagers for a change in state government.
Sawyer said one motivator was the number of people she has seen losing their homes to foreclosure and having to help so many senior citizens and veterans leave the state.
"I was a write-in, so I kind of got in the game a little later than everybody else," Sawyer said. "But, I knew that in order to win this we needed to realize what was important to our constituents."
Sawyer said she was "overwhelmed" how many committed Democratic voters told her they would vote for her "because they needed a change."
"They were tired of paying the high property taxes," she said. "It's nothing to brag about that we're the highest property tax state in the country. it's quite embarrassing."
The senator-elect struck a cordial note responding to a concession speech that Sweeney made less than two hours earlier at the Statehouse in Trenton.
"The results of Tuesday's election are all in, all votes have been fairly counted, and I, of course, accept the results," said Sweeney, a West Deptford Township resident. "I want to congratulate Mr. Durr and wish him the best of luck."
"While I have not agreed with Sen. Sweeney’s politics, he earned the right for me to wait for all legal votes counted," Durr said. "To Sen. Sweeney: I congratulate you on a long career. Who knows? Maybe someday we can have a beer together."
Durr said Sweeney also had called him to congratulate him and the two had a "pleasant" conversation. The week's delay in conceding the race did not bother him and agreed caution was appropriate, he said.
Durr doesn't hold back on Gov. Murphy
Durr took the opposite approach to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, saying Murphy is responsible for his party's serious losses on Election Day. Murphy is "a dangerous guy armed with a bunch of executive orders," he said.
"Many people have asked: What was the secret to my success?' Durr said with a smile. "I can answer in two words: Phil Murphy."
Later in response to a question, Durr said there was no mistaking residents wanted to tell the governor "no more."
"I’m not saying they didn’t pay attention to me," Durr said. "I had a good message that I believed we need to fight. But, it was clearly a vote against the mandates, the lockdowns, the closing of businesses. And they believed in my message that we needed to have less government intrusion and more freedoms and rights back."
Durr showed some heat about the Murphy administration's decision to move people with COVID-19 into nursing and long-term care facilities. He wants an investigation to determine how many people died and he believes one is possible even with Democrats still in the majority in the Legislature.
"I’m sure there were Democratic lives that were lost, too," Durr said. "So, I believe everybody wants to know exactly what took place and why it happened. I mean, that’s what government responsibility is — to answer these questions to their constituents.
"We haven’t had those answered for the last 18 months, have we?" he said. "We’ve been told: Do this, do that, don’t go to church, don’t go to the store, close your business."
Election night voting results have been updated as needed, and essentially daily, since Nov. 2. The Third State Legislative District includes parts of Gloucester and Cumberland counties and all of Salem County.
As of Wednesday, the most current unofficial results give Durr 33,662 votes and Sweeney 31,450 votes. That is a 2,212-vote difference in favor of Durr.
There is a greater vote margin between the second place and third place finishers in the General Assembly races. Patrick, of Mannington Township in Salem County, and Sawyer, of Woolwich Township, have held even greater vote leads than Durr.
As of this Wednesday, Sawyer has 33,781 votes and Patrick 33,640 votes.
Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli has 30,910 votes, trailing Patrick by 2,730 votes; and Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro has 30,426 votes. Burzichelli is a Paulsboro resident. Taliaferro lives in Woolwich.
The Third Legislative District is in Republican control for the first time in decades thanks to Durr and his slate, and that solidifies GOP control of deepest South Jersey.
Republicans took back the First Legislative District in the last election cycle, and on Nov. 2 they easily defeated Democratic challengers.
Durr said the sheriff's race outcome, and the re-election of Assemblyman Antwan McClellan in the First District, point to the GOP broadening "horizons to show that we are one, happy tent."
"We take in all, people of all walks of life, all beliefs, all backgrounds," Durr said. "We’re not just this narrow pathway that the Democrats like to put us on. We believe in inclusion, not division."
The outcome of the Third District race is national news. Durr said he heard from numerous national figures, including a congratulatory call on Sunday from former President Donald Trump.
Durr was meeting with a national Muslim organization later Wednesday over some posts about their religion and its Prophet.
"The thing is you get behind a keyboard, you don’t see a person and you don’t consider the other person," Durr said. "I just wrote something that I don’t mean to offend anybody. And I’m moving forward. I’m not going to let the media make it about a post. It is about the policies that have been driven down our throats."
Joe Smith is a N.E. Philly native transplanted to South Jersey more than 30 years ago, keeping an eye now on government in South Jersey. He is a former editor and current senior staff writer for The Daily Journal in Vineland, Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, and the Burlington County Times.
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This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Ed Durr: GOP senator-elect accepts victory over Steve Sweeney