This upcoming November, the electoral fates of state governments in New Jersey and Virginia will hang in the balance. With no presidential or midterm elections being held this fall, these state’s elections will be among the most closely-watched in the country.
In New Jersey, Democratic governor Phil Murphy is up for reelection. Murphy is popular across the state, with recent mid-October polls showing a 60 percent overall approval rating. His handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has received statewide praise and greatly boosted his reelection hopes, with his average pre-pandemic polling surging after Murphy’s pandemic control policies took hold and he began holding daily TV appearances. Such legislative accomplishments from his first term as implementing paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage have been widely celebrated by state Democrats. The governor has the additional benefit of registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans in New Jersey by over 1 million.
Despite these advantages for Governor Murphy, he faces sizable historical obstacles. For instance, Murphy is attempting to become the first Democratic governor in 45 years to win reelection in the Garden State. Moreover, in recent decades, New Jerseyans have tended to vote in governors of the opposite party from the president at that time.
On the Republican side, three candidates have already entered the race to win their party’s nomination, including former candidate for various state and federal offices Hirsh Singh and former assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. It is too soon to tell which Republican candidate is the favorite for their party’s nomination.
The New Jersey General Assembly will be holding elections for all of its seats this upcoming November. Democrats in the state currently possess an overwhelming majority in the state house and senate and are heavily favored to retain their majorities in both houses this fall.
Further south, the Commonwealth of Virginia will be holding its gubernatorial and House of Delegates elections this November.
In the state’s gubernatorial election, both parties’ races are wide open, with the current Democratic governor of the state, Ralph Northam, unable to seek a second term due to term limits. Former Virginia governor Terry McAullife has polled as having the most support among Democrat candidates thus far. Other contenders in the Democratic field include current Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and Virginia state congresswomen Jennifer Carrol and Jennifer McLellan.
There is no clear favorite for the Republican gubernatorial nomination either. Virginia state senator Amanda Chase has a slim plurality of polled support among Republicans, but Virginia house speaker Kirk Cox and businessman Pete Snyder are not far behind. The Republican race is exposing wide divisions within the Republican party, with zealous Donald Trump follower Amanda Chase at stark odds with the vision of establishment Republicans such as speaker Cox.
In the House of Delegates, the Democrats will hope to defend the slim majority they won in the state’s 2021 elections. In a state that has been trending blue in recent election cycles, it remains closely divided between both parties and this House of Delegates election reflects this competitiveness.