https://www.nj.com/politics/2021/10/everything-you-need-to-know-about-njs-big-elections-tuesday-including-the-heated-governors-race.html

Tuesday is Election Day, and it’s a huge one in New Jersey.

In the biggest race, voters will pick who’ll serve the next four years as the state’s governor, deciding the outcome of a heated contest between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.

Plus, the entire state Legislature is on the ballot. So are a number of local races — including one involving a major player in the Bridgegate scandal — and two public questions.

Here’s what you need to know:

WHO’S ON THE BALLOT?

Governor: Gov. Phil Murphy is seeking a second term — and to become the first Democratic New Jersey governor in 44 years to win re-election. Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli is aiming to upset and unseat him, hoping to return the governor’s office to the GOP four years after Chris Christie’s final term.

There are also three third-party candidates: Green Party nominee Madelyn Hoffman, Libertarian nominee Gregg Mele, and Socialist Workers nominee Joanne Kulinsky.

Legislature: All 120 seats in the state Legislature — the body in Trenton that crafts New Jersey’s laws and passes its budget — are up for grabs. Both houses, the state Senate and Assembly, are currently controlled by Democrats.

Local races: There are a number of races at the county and local level.

There’s a mayoral race in Jersey City, the state’s second-largest municipality, where Lewis Spears, a coordinator for the Hudson County Youth Services Commission, is challenging two-term incumbent Steve Fulop.

And there’s the fight for Bergen County clerk, where Republican nominee Bridget Anne Kelly — a key figure in the George Washington Bridge scandal — is running against Democrat incumbent John Hogan, who is seeking a third term.

WHEN ARE POLLS OPEN?

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout New Jersey on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

CAN I VOTE IN PERSON?

Yes. Last year’s elections were mostly mail-in because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But you are able to vote in person on traditional voting machines this year.

Though masks are still required inside New Jersey schools because of the virus, voters with polling places at a school won’t have to.

Masks are also not required at other polling places because the statewide face covering mandate has been lifted.

WHERE IS MY POLLING PLACE?

Your polling place is assigned based on your address. Click here and plug in your address to find where you vote.

CAN I STILL VOTE BY MAIL?

Yes. If you’ve already received your ballot but haven’t sent it in, it will be counted as long as it’s postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2.

If you want to vote by mail but haven’t applied to do so, it’s too late to mail in an application. But you can apply in person at your county clerk’s office until 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1. (If you have lost your mail-in ballot, you can get a new one at your county clerk’s office.)

You can also deliver your mail-in ballot to your county’s Board of Elections office through 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Or you can drop your mail-in ballot into one of the hundreds of drop boxes across the state by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2. Here’s a complete list of drop box locations. If you have questions, check your county website.

CAN I SITLL VOTE EARLY IN PERSON?

No. This was the first year of early in-person voting in New Jersey history, with voters allowed cast ballots at physical locations from Oct. 23-31. But that period expired at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy (left) and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli (right).

GOVERNOR’S RACE

New Jersey’s governorship is one of the nation’s most powerful, and this year’s battle for the job has been a tense one as Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy seeks re-election against Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli. It’s the first truly competitive governor’s race in 12 years, with most polls showing Murphy with a single-digit lead.

The challengers have each painted the other as being too extreme for the Garden State, so much so that policy arguments have sometimes taken a backseat to the mudslinging. Murphy has portrayed Ciattarelli as an acolyte of President Donald Trump. Ciattarelli has portrayed Murphy as a fiscally irresponsible liberal.

Murphy is looking to buck history. No Democratic New Jersey governor has won re-election since Brendan Byrne in 1977, though voters chose Democratic gubernatorial candidates in consecutive elections in 2001 and 2005. (Three Republicans — Tom Kean, Christie Whitman, and Chris Christie — have been re-elected in that time.)

Ciattarelli is aiming to overcome low name recognition and the fact Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in New Jersey by more than 1 million people.

The state is one of only two in the U.S. with a governor’s race this year, along with Virginia, bringing it national attention. Many see it as both a bellwether on Democratic President Joe Biden’s first year in office and whether more moderate suburban Republicans will vote for the GOP now that the presidency no longer belongs to Trump, who polls show is widely unpopular in New Jersey. While Biden — a longtime Murphy friend who appeared with the governor last week — won New Jersey by 16 points last year, his approval rating is now underwater in the state, according to a recent Monmouth University poll. The race could also be a precursor to next year’s midterm elections.

THE CANDIDATES

Phil Murphy: The 64-year-old Middletown resident was elected New Jersey’s 56th governor in 2017, succeeding the term-limited Christie. He is now seeking a second term.

Murphy, a multimillionaire former Goldman Sachs banking executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany, has pushed New Jersey in a more progressive direction after eight years of Christie. And this election could be seen as a referendum on those policies and how much New Jersey, an increasingly diverse state with a Democratic-controlled Legislature and largely Democratic congressional delegation, has moved to the left.

Murphy has signed laws enacting equal pay and paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, restoring funding for women’s health clinics, tightening gun control, and increasing taxes on wealthy residents and corporations. Bolstered by various tax hikes, Murphy has also increased state government spending by $11 billion to funnel more money into the state budget for public-worker pensions, education aid, tuition-free community college, child care, preschool, and more. And a number of other taxes have actually dropped for some residents in Murphy’s first term.

Meanwhile, Murphy oversaw the response to the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey, an early epicenter and home to more than 27,000 deaths. He installed some of the nation’s most-wide reaching and long-lasting lockdown and mask rules over the last 20 months. He has ordered state workers, education staffers, child care employees, and health care workers to be vaccinated or face regular testing and has not ruled out broader mandates.

Murphy has largely drawn positive marks in polls for his handling of the crisis but has also drawn sharp criticism from Ciattarelli and other Republicans who say his pandemic decisions have been too draconian. He has also faced scrutiny over the handling of the virus in nursing homes, where more than 8,000 people have died. Federal officials are investigating how Murphy’s administration dealt with the pandemic at state-run veterans homes.

In addition, Murphy has been hounded by allegations that women who worked for him were mistreated and that his administration didn’t respond quickly enough to alleged abuse at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, the state’s only women’s prison. And he faced questions over whether he took too long to declare a state of emergency during Tropical Storm Ida, which killed 30 people in New Jersey and left many homes damaged by floodwaters.

Murphy is once again running alongside Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.

He is married to First Lady Tammy Murphy. They have four children.

Jack Ciattarelli: The 59-year-old Hillsborough resident won the Republican nomination to challenge Murphy after finishing second for the GOP nod for governor in 2017. He previously served six years in the state Assembly, was a Somerset County freeholder before that, and is also a certified public accountant and the former owner of a medical publishing company.

Ciattarelli argues it’s time for change after four years of Murphy, accusing the governor of making New Jersey more tax-heavy, unaffordable, and left-leaning. He vows to revamp the state’s tax code, lower its notoriously high property taxes by reworking school funding, and slash $10 billion in state government spending — though he has not detailed how much the tax cuts would cost or what programs he’d eliminate.

The lifelong Garden State resident has also championed his Jersey roots compared to Murphy, a Massachusetts native who has nonetheless lived here since 1999.

Considered a moderate during his time in the Legislature, CiattarellI has promised conservative-leaning policies on guns, policing, and immigration and taken less-conservative stances on abortion and climate change. He also surprised some political observers in blue-leaning New Jersey by veering right on a few issues, such as saying he’d “roll back” the state’s LGBTQ curriculum. Murphy warns that Ciattarelli would move the state backwards.

Ciattarelli called Trump “a charlatan” who was “unfit” for the presidency in 2015 but has since supported some of Trump’s policies. He appeared last November at a “Stop the Steal” rally, though he insists he wasn’t aware of the rally’s theme when he spoke.

On the pandemic, Ciattarelli is against mask and vaccine mandates, saying people should have a choice. But he supports allowing a testing option for government workers. Murphy says Ciattarelli’s pandemic stances would put lives at risk.

Ciattarelli’s lieutenant governor running mate is former state Sen. Diane Allen.

He is married to Melinda Ciattarelli. They have four children.

Third-party candidates: Green Party nominee Madelyn Hoffman, Libertarian nominee Gregg Mele, and Socialist Workers nominee Joanne Kulinsky are also running. None of them raised enough money to participate in the race’s debates. Here’s a closer look at the three candidates.

WHERE THEY STAND ON KEY ISSUES

Murphy and Ciattarelli are divided on most issues, though they have found some common ground. Here’s a detailed look at where they stand on 11 key issues, from taxes and COVID-19 to guns and abortion to NJ Transit and marijuana.

WHAT THE POLLS SHOW

Murphy has led Ciattarelli in all public-opinion polls, though the race has narrowed in recent weeks, compared to early surveys that showed the governor carrying hefty double-digit leads.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Monday showed Murphy up by 8 percentage points.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released Friday found Murphy up by 9 percentage points, the same margin as a Stockton University poll released Thursday.

A Monmouth University Poll from Wednesday showed Murphy leading by 11 percentage points, while a poll from Emerson College/PIX11 last week showed a closer race, with the governor up by 6 percentage points.

Political observers say the election will come down to turnout. Republicans feel they have more momentum and enthusiasm as Democrats deal with a deflated national mood. But Democrats have that 2-to-1 voter advantage. A Ciattarelli victory would be a major upset — and a major warning sign for national Democrats heading into 2022.

MORE COVERAGE

Click here to read NJ Advance Media’s complete coverage of the governor’s race.

LEGISLATIVE RACES

All 120 seats in the state Legislature — 40 in the Senate and 80 in the Assembly — are on the ballot. Democrats control each chamber and are expected to retain their majorities, but some seats could change hands. Each of the state’s 40 legislative districts have one senator and two Assembly members.

These are the closest races:

2nd District: Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo is running against Republican Vince Polistina, a former member of the Assembly, for the open Senate seat in this South Jersey district, which includes Atlantic City. The seat is being vacated by Republican Chris Brown, who left the post in July to join Murphy’s administration as a senior adviser on issues related to Atlantic City. Polistina has temporarily filled the seat.

In the Assembly, incumbent Democrat John Armato is running for another term alongside Democrat Caren Fitzpatrick, a county commissioner in Atlantic County. They’re facing Republicans Don Guardian, a one-term Atlantic City mayor, and Claire Swift, a former deputy state attorney general.

8th District: Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego is running for re-election in this purple South Jersey district, but for the first time as a Democrat. The former Republican changed parties in 2019. She is facing a fierce challenge from former Burlington County Sheriff and Republican Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield.

Meanwhile, both Assembly seats are open in this district, as Stanfield vies for the Senate and Assemblyman Ryan Peters steps back from politics. Mark Natale, an attorney and Evesham’s Democratic chair, and Allison Eckel, a representative Lenape Regional High School District Board of Education, are the Democrats running against the Republicans, Hammonton Councilman Michael Torrissi and former Lumbertown Township administrator Brandon Umba.

16th District: The big race in this increasingly Democratic Central Jersey district is for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Christopher “Kip” Bateman, who is retiring after 28 years in the Legislature. Democrat Andrew Zwicker, who currently represents the 16th in the Assembly, is running against Republican Michael Pappas, a one-term U.S. Congressman who represented New Jersey in the 1990s and became known for singing ”Twinkle Twinkle, Kenneth Starr” on the House floor during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1998.

21st District: The Senate race in this purple Central Jersey district is for the seat being vacated by the chamber’s Republican leader, Tom Kean Jr., who is making a second try to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski in Congress. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick is vying to take Kean’s seat against Democratic challenger Joseph Signorello, the mayor of Roselle Park.

With Bramnick aiming to move up to the Senate, another woman is poised to join the Assembly. Currently, women make up just under one-third of the Assembly.

Republican Assemblywoman Nany Muñoz is running for another term alongside Michele Matsikoudis, a New Providence borough council member. The Democratic challengers are Elizabeth Graner, a teacher, and Anjali Mehrotra, president of National Organization for Women of New Jersey. Mehrotra is one of several Asian-American women running this year, and could be the first to hold a seat in the Legislature.

37th District: The Senate race in this Democratic-heavy North Jersey district is for the seat being vacated by Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Loretta Weinberg, who is retiring after a storied career Democratic Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Republican Michael Koontz, a screenwriter who previously hosted a talk show, are running to replace her, with Johnson favored to win.

But both Assembly seats in the district are also open, after Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle lost a Democratic primary to Johnson in the Senate race. Democrats Shama Haider, a Tenafly councilwoman and Ellen Park, a former Englewoods Cliffs councilwoman, are the Democrats running against Republicans Perley Patrick and Edward Durfee.

Durfee has brought controversy to the race. He is a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right group that federal officials say played a key role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Durfee was outside of the Capitol on that day, working security for the group, but he has not been charged with any crimes related to the insurrection.

If either of the Democrat Assembly candidates win, they will be among the first Asian-American women elected to the Legislature.

BALLOT QUESTIONS

Voters will also be asked two referendum questions, seeking their permission to amend the state constitution to expand college sports betting and allow more non-profits to benefit from hosting games of chance.

The first question has drawn the most attention. Under current state law, you can’t place bets in New Jersey on college sports teams located here or college sports events that take place here. But if this referendum passes, it would allow legislators to change the law to permit New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks to allow betting on all college sports.

As for the second question, the state constitution currently allows only certain nonprofits, such as military veteran and senior citizen groups, to use the net proceeds from games of chance — such as Bingo and raffles — to fund their operations. If approved, this question would allow any nonprofit in New Jersey to do so.

WHO CAN VOTE?

Any registered voter can cast a ballot. But if you haven’t registered, you’re too late. The deadline was Oct. 12.

You have to be at least 18 years old to vote.

Check here to see if you’re registered.

WHAT IF THERE’S A PROBLEM AT THE POLLS?

The New Jersey Secretary of State serves as the state’s chief election official. If you have concerns about voting and elections, call the state Division of Elections’ voting information and assistance line at 877-NJVOTER (877-658-6837).

Separately, the state Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability investigates public corruption and election crimes. To report a potential crime, call 844-OPIA-TIPS. The Attorney General’s Office has an anti-corruption reward program that will offer a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. For more details, see http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.

WHERE CAN I FIND RESULTS?

There will be results and full coverage for all key races after the polls close on NJ.com.

NJ Advance Media staff writers Matthew Arco, Amanda Hoover, and Susan K. Livio contributed to this report.

Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.

Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @johnsb01.

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