November 10, 2021
New Jersey's Senate President Steve Sweeney, one of the state's most powerful elected officials, conceded defeat on Wednesday afternoon solidifying a stunning upset in last week's election to Republican challenger Edward Durr..
The Democrat from West Deptford, Gloucester County, whose 20-year tenure made him the state's longest-serving legislative leader of all time, was trounced by Durr, a truck driver who took home roughly 2,000 more votes than the career politician, all while running a bare-bones campaign.
"All votes have been fairly counted, and I, of course, accept the results," Sweeney said Wednesday at a press conference before congratulating Durr
Sweeney waited until more than a week after election night to admit defeat because election officials in his district were still counting votes, he said.
Durr also has postponed officially celebrating his win, thus far, as a way to needle New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy, who barely eked out a victory against Republican challenger Jack Ciatarelli. Durr believes the governor took his victory lap prematurely, as not all the "legal votes" had been counted.
Durr got a congratulatory call from former President Donald Trump over the weekend which was recorded and posted to the Gloucester County GOP Facebook page. "Anything I can do, you let me know," the former president said.
Also since the Election Day, the new state senator was forced to apologize for Islamophobic tweets he had posted two years ago. “I’m a passionate guy and I sometimes say things in the heat of the moment,” Durr explained.
Sweeney, who has been senate president since 2010, said a "red wave" was at the root of his defeat. He does not plan to seek a recount.
His fellow state Democrats have scheduled an election to choose his successor as New Jersey Senate President on Friday.
The New Jersey Globe reported that Nicholas Scutari, the current Senate Judiciary chairman, is likely to succeed Sweeney as senate president. Still, there are other contenders. Sen. Nina Gill plans to challenge Scutari and become New Jersey's first ever female person of color to be Senate president, and the Star-Ledger published an op-ed encouraging Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz to enter the race.
In his concession speech, Sweeney reminisced about the accomplishments he and the New Jersey Democrats have made over the last two decades.
He stressed the need to make the state more affordable for blue-collar workers and the success of the state's paid family leave bill, which expanded the amount of time workers can take off to care for a sick relative.
Sweeney said the bill was personal to him. His daughter Lauren was born prematurely before he became a senator, and he said it was only because of the generous benefits provided by his "good union job" that he was able to stay by her side instead of returning to work.
The senate president had some parting advice for fellow Democratic campaigners in New Jersey: "We have to focus on the things that are important to people in the state," he said. "We have to listen to them."
Watch Sweeny's entire concession speech below.