New Jersey

Edward Durr Claims Victory as NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney Concedes Loss

The loss by one of New Jersey’s most powerful politicians results in upheaval of political power in the state, forcing the Senate to find a new president

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What to Know

  • New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, one of the most powerful elected officials in the state, conceded that he lost reelection to the state Senate.
  • The Democrat lost to Republican political newcomer and commercial truck driver Edward Durr in South Jersey’s 3rd District.
  • Republican state Sen.-elect Durr says he will have a learning curve in his new post but plans to try thwart Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy once he gets to Trenton next year.

Democratic New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney conceded that he lost to Edward Durr, a commercial truck driver, in the 2021 general election.

"I want to congratulate Mr. Durr and wish him the best of luck," Sweeney said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference at the Statehouse Complex in Trenton.

"To Senator Sweeney, I congratulate you on a long career," Durr said in Wednesday remarks from from Gloucester County GOP headquarters. "Who knows, maybe one day we could have a beer together."

Sweeney earlier said the people of the 3rd Legislative District are "the best of New Jersey."

"It has been an honor and privilege to represent them in the state Senate and to serve as the president of the state Senate," Sweeney said.

Republican challenger Durr, a truck driver from Gloucester County without previous political experience, defeated Sweeney by more than 2,000 votes in New Jersey's 3rd District. Sweeney noted that the loss was part of a red wave in his district.

Sweeney's loss unfolded in a politically competitive suburban district that includes parts of Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties, which split their votes between Democrats and Republicans in the presidential elections in 2016 and again in 2020.

It also coincided with boosted GOP turnout in an off-year election that saw Republicans win across the state. Durr’s victory, which The Associated Press declared Thursday, netted about 3% more votes than Sweeney did in 2017 in unofficial returns.

Sweeney said he won't call for a recount and that all votes "have been fairly counted." "I, of course, accept the results."

“What the voters said in this election is New Jersey is a state filled with hardworking people who want to provide for their families and as leaders we need to speak directly to the concerns of all voters,” he said. “I plan to keep speaking to those concerns.”

Sweeney added that he won't be withdrawing from public life, though he stopped short of saying whether he would seek election to the Senate again or run for governor in 2025. He said that he's going to continue to focus on “the things that are important to the people of this state.”

Durr on Wednesday said the victory stemmed from voters upset with Gov. Phil Murphy's COVID-19 mask mandate in schools and the early-pandemic lockdown.

He said the “secret" to his win came down to two words: “Phil Murphy."

“’The voters have spoken," Durr said. “They don’t want government rule by a dangerous guy armed with a bunch of executive orders."

The Republican state senator-elect who works as a furniture store truck driver and whose victory over New Jersey's powerful Senate president made national headlines acknowledged Wednesday how formidable the new role will be for him and added he's focused on thwarting Murphy.

“I feel like I'm about to throw up,” Ed Durr said when asked if there's a learning curve for him. “This is all new to me. It’s all overwhelming, but I am very happy that the voters selected me. I’m going to earn that vote and I'm going to prove them right."

Durr, who drives a truck for Raymour & Flanigan, shocked the state and stunned Sweeney by coming out on top in their suburban Philadelphia district.

The loss by one of New Jersey’s most powerful politicians results in upheaval of political power in the state, forcing the Senate to find a new president. Sweeney has been the chamber’s leader since 2010.

Just four years ago, he won reelection in what at the time may have been the most expensive legislative race in American history.

Sweeney's loss came on the same election as his fellow Democrat, Murphy, nearly lost a re-election that polls and political experts in the Garden State long had predicted as an easy victory. It was anything but: Murphy was finally projected as winner on Wednesday evening when he was up by only 19,000 votes over his Republican challenger out of more than 2.3 million ballots cast.

Durr earlier said he entered the race after being denied a concealed carry permit despite having a clean record.

A post-election campaign finance report filed after this story published shows a slate of three local candidates, including Durr, spent a little over $2,300 in the past year. A previous finance report had shown only $153 spent by the candidates.

“Well, I’m a numbers guy and I’ve looked at the numbers over the years,” Durr said in an August interview with conservative commentator Elizabeth Nader. “We have a district that is 150,000 voters. Senator Sweeney has never broken 32,000 votes ... and so I felt if he can’t even get half the district, that means there’s numbers out there to be taken, and you just have to get people to come out and vote. I believe if they come out and vote, we could win,” Durr said.

Durr promises lower property taxes and the creation of a “friendly business environment.” When it comes to the Second Amendment, he states on his website that "any law or regulation by a state is a violation."

He also believes that "abortion is wrong and should be stopped" but suggests that so-called heartbeat bills – which restrict abortions to early on in a pregnancy, often before someone knows they're pregnant – offer "a path to a compromise" with Democrats.

"Not everybody has to have a lot of money to run. All they have to do is have a heart for the people, and he’s got a heart for the working people," his mother, Gloria Durr, told NBC10 last week. She also shared that her husband of 63 years, Edward Durr Sr., died just two weeks ago and that her son, despite being on the campaign trail, "was right there by his dad's side throughout."

Sweeney has held the District 3 seat since 2004.

The loss also raises questions about the political power of South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross, who has been aligned with Sweeney for decades.

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