OCEAN COUNTY – Jack Ciattarelli is more popular in Ocean County than any other candidate for governor in at least 30 years.
The former State Assemblyman was neck and neck with Governor Phil Murphy a day after polls closed. In a race where most people figured the Democrat had an easy race, the results showed that it was anything but assured. It’s safe to say that Ocean County’s strong Republican base is what made this race competitive.
In Ocean County, Ciattarelli received 141,482 votes to Murphy’s 65,176. These figures were unofficial, since the county clerk has to certify them at a later date. But they won’t change too much from this amount.
When the Associated Press called the race, there were less than 20,000 votes between the two candidates. Consider, then, how much of a difference Ocean County made. If he had only received 100,000 votes here, like in the last contest for governor, then the race would have been called long ago.
In fact, Ocean County accounted for approximately 11% of Ciattarelli’s total vote as of press time.
Ciattarelli’s vote total is at least 15,000 higher than Chris Christie’s best outing, and the last Republican governor was very popular in this GOP stronghold. In fact, Christie was fond of saying that it was Ocean County’s powerful turnout for him that made him governor.
Jersey Shore Online went back three decades, looking at the vote tallies for governor races, and learned that Ciattarelli did better this year than any candidate in any governor’s race for at least 30 years. All of these historical figures are from gubernatorial election years, and the Republican candidate is listed first.
By way of comparison, in 2017, Kim Guadagno received 98,135 votes in 2017 to Murphy’s 56,582.
In 2013, Chris Christie received 125,781 votes to Barbara Buono’s 37,930.
In 2009, Chris Christie received 124,238 votes to Jon Corzine’s 53,761.
In 2005, Doug Forrester received 93,693 votes to Jon Corzine’s 71,953.
In 2001, Bret Schundler received 77,726 votes to James McGreevey’s 84,538.
In 1997, Christine Todd Whitman received 84,140 votes to James McGreevey’s 57,354.
In 1993, Christine Todd Whitman received 87,943 votes to Jim Florio’s 78,132.
In 1989, Jim Courter received 62,700 votes to Jim Florio’s 83,587.
Jersey Shore Online stopped there, but the figures would have probably continued to trend down. The population in the county in the 1980s was much lower than it is now. Perhaps Ciattarelli received the highest number of votes in Ocean County’s entire history, at least in governor races.
Of course, this is just raw data. It doesn’t include the issues that were happening during these years that might make people run to the polls more. For example, a hotly contested local election will bring more people out to vote for a town issue, and while they are there, they vote for other spots on the ballot as well.
That may have been the case this year. For example, Toms River had four council seats, two board of education seats and an open space referendum on the ballot. This, combined with a nasty election cycle, brought people to the polls in droves. Brick and Manchester also had mayoral elections this year, and there were serious school board contests in towns like Jackson and Barnegat. Lacey had a question about marijuana businesses in town.
While local races take a “micro” look at these numbers, we shouldn’t ignore the “macro.” Ever since 2016, every election has been about more than just the people on the ballot. Residents cast their votes based on what they think the country should be doing, even if the local politicians have no say in the great scheme of things.
For example, the New Jersey governor might not have a lot of power when it comes to the U.S. immigration policy, but the messages put out by Republicans and Democrats trickle down to each place below them. A Republican upset with Joe Biden will likely go to the polls to vote against the Democrat governor, for example.
Additionally, midterm elections are usually won by whoever is not in power. After Donald Trump won in 2016, Democrats made strides in the 2018 election. Biden won in 2020, so pundits are already predicting that the pendulum will swing to the right in 2022’s midterms. Perhaps Ciattarelli’s strong vote totals show that people weren’t going to wait until 2022.