Democrat Phil Murphy had the race called for him as soon as the polls closed in New Jersey, defeating Republican candidate Kim Guadagno in the race to replace Chris Christie as governor in the Garden State. Murphy would become the first Democratic governor in New Jersey since 2009, when Christie defeated Jon Corzine.
Guadagno was facing an uphill battle given that she was a Republican in a blue state and was replacing an incredibly unpopular governor in Christie.
Track the results here:
12:10 a.m.: The count appears to have stopped. Murphy’s margin will be 13 to 14 points, pending absentee ballots. Not quite the surprise of the margin of Ralph Northam’s win in Virginia, but a good night for the Democrats in New Jersey nonetheless.
11:49 p.m.: Somerset County has flipped back to blue by a point. Still, that’s a substantially better showing for Guadagno than Donald Trump did in the county. She’s got to take whatever wins she can get.
11:27 p.m.: The lesson of New Jersey appears to be: take those two counties and add one to three points, and you’ll have the Republican total for the state.
11:25 p.m.: We said at the beginning of the night that Middlesex and Burlington Counties would reflect the race. It’s proven true. Guadagno trails by 13 points; she’s lost both Middlesex and Burlington by 15 points each.
11:02 p.m.: The one thing to note about Somerset County is that it’s the most educated county in the Garden State, as 50 percent of residents have a college degree. That says that voters there separated Guadagno from Christie and Trump, but not enough other New Jersey residents did.
11:01 p.m.: So if Guadagno is doing so much worse than Romney in Bergen County, why is she keeping the result to 13 points so far? It’s because she’s flipped two counties. Somerset and Salem Counties were losses for Romney, but Guadagno won Salem by 5 and leads Somerset by 7. Salem went to Trump, but Somerset went to Clinton by 13 points.
10:50 p.m.: Bergen County is in. Murphy wins it by nearly 22 points. Christie lost it by just two points in 2009. That’s bad enough for Guadagno, but she also did worse than Romney did here in 2012. He only lost Bergen by 12 points.
10:37 p.m.: The way things look, Murphy’s margin is likely going to be about 15 points. Guadagno was projected to keep it to 12 points, so not a good night for her.
10:26 p.m.: Mercer County is 100 percent in. Murphy won it by 31 points, compared to the margin of 37 that Obama scored over Romney in 2012. But on the other side, Chris Christie only lost it by 15 points in 2009 and won it by 5 in 2013.
10:20 p.m.: Phil Murphy gives his victory speech.
10:17 p.m.: Burlington County is now starting to come in. This was the other county that would be a bellwether for Guadagno, and she’s losing it by nine points. That’s better than Romney did, but it’s not enough to come close to winning. She needed a win in Burlington.
10:10 p.m.: Murphy has now built his lead over 15 points. Look for that to continue to increase as more of Hudson County comes in.
9:59 p.m. The main thing that changes tonight is that New Jersey will become the seventh state to have all three of the governor’s mansion and both chambers of its legislature controlled by the Democratic Party.
9:54 p.m.: In the New Jersey Senate, Stephen Sweeney is cruising to a win and appears like he will at least temporarily hold his spot as the head of the Democrats in New Jersey’s upper chamber. That means he’ll be working closely with Murphy.
9:47 p.m.: We’ve hit a lull in results coming in. Murphy’s holding at 55 percent (54.7) with 63 percent of the vote in.
9:34 p.m. Murphy has now hit 55 percent as more votes come in across the blue areas of New Jersey. This is not going to get better for Guadagno.
9:24 p.m.: Now we’re starting to hear from Hudson County. Not surprisingly, it’s for Murphy. He’s now closing in on double digits, and we have half the state to go.
9:16 p.m. This sums up why it was such an early call: the exit polls have Murphy favored by both men and women by 58 percent. Usually, women favor the Democrat by a little more than men do, but this time, it was dead even. That’s a formula for victory for the Democrats, no question.
9:13 p.m. Murphy is now starting to get his votes in. The bellwether is Middlesex County. Murphy is up 18 points in Middlesex, a county that Guadagno needed to be close in to have a chance. If she’s getting blown out in Middlesex County, she doesn’t have a path to victory.
9:03 p.m.: Guadagno isn’t going away, but the seven counties where she leads are all seven of the counties Mitt Romney won. Romney lost by 18 points. Guadagno has to get more than those seven counties to make this interesting.
8:54 p.m. Murphy has pulled ahead at 50 percent to 47.6, and we still haven’t heard from Hudson County, which is Jersey City.
8:51 p.m.: Fox News is not even running the election results on the bottom of the screen for either Virginia or New Jersey. That’s a pretty bad look for a news channel.
8:49 p.m. Mercer County is starting to separate, as Murphy has 57 percent of the vote from the county that’s home to the state capital of Trenton. It’s only at 18 percent in, so Murphy has a lot of votes to pick up here.
President Trump has just made his comment on the Virginia election, where Trump-endorsed Ed Gillespie has fallen to Democrat Ralph Northam. Trump did not endorse Guadagno, which might have actually helped her in a state where Trump has a 31 percent approval rating.
The AP waited a little longer than NBC to make a call. 20 minutes was about what would have been expected to call this one.
8:38 p.m. Guadagno has pulled back ahead. She’s got a fair amount of votes coming in from Ocean County. Ocean County is the second-most Republican county in the Garden State. Murphy’s base is yet to be counted.
8:35 p.m.: Guadagno is running about the same as Mitt Romney did in 2012 in Monmouth County. That’s not a good sign for her totals. Chris Christie won 62 percent in Monmouth County in 2009 and 70 percent in 2013. Guadagno is at 52 percent.
8:33 p.m.: Essex County is coming in. That’s Newark. That’s going to be a large source of votes for Murphy as well.
8:26 p.m.: Camden County is starting to come in. This will likely be where Murphy starts to build a very large margin.
8:23 p.m.: CNN has Gloucester County coming in, and Phil Murphy has a solid lead there. He probably won’t be passed again tonight.
8:18 p.m. No new results are coming in at the moment from the Garden State. Still has Guadagno with a lead. It’s still only from Sussex County.
8:10 p.m. Guadagno has a big lead in the vote total, but it’s in Sussex County, one of the most Republican counties in the state. Not a surprise that her total is high there.
8:08 p.m.: Murphy’s win will likely be by double digits, continuing a trend in New Jersey. Since 1961, every Democratic victory for governor has been by 10 points or more. The last Democrat to win a close race in the state was Richard Hughes.
8:04 p.m. This is a surprise to have the result called this early. Few people expected Guadagno to win, but to have it called as soon as polls closed is unexpected.
8:01 p.m. NBC News has already called the race for Phil Murphy.
8:00 p.m. Polls are closed in New Jersey.
7:45 p.m. We’re still 15 minutes out from polls closing in New Jersey, but what’s going on in Virginia seems to be good news for Phil Murphy. Ralph Northam was looking vulnerable, and he’s looking strong as the results come in. Virginia and New Jersey haven’t both elected Democrats as governor since 2005.
7:30 p.m.: One wild card that could spell trouble for Murphy is how New Jersey voters react to the corruption trial of Democratic senator Bob Menendez. If they choose to punish the party for Menendez, Murphy could have a fight on his hands. However, Menendez can also backfire on Guadagno. After eight years of Christie, New Jersey might not want a Republican to choose a replacement for Menendez if he is removed from office.
7:25 p.m.: The key counties for Guadagno to have a chance are Burlington and Middlesex Counties. When Christie won a narrow victory in 2009, he managed to win narrowly in both of these counties. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost these counties badly and lost New Jersey badly. If Middlesex and Burlington are close, Guadagno has a chance. If not, it will be a short race.
7:20 p.m.: This race isn’t expected to be close given that Murphy is running to replace an unpopular incumbent. Guadagno will have to find a way to overcome Chris Christe’s drastically low approval rating. If she can’t, Murphy will coast to victory.