Ms Biasiello, 70, who lives in West Deptford, said Mr. Sweeney “could have stepped up” to oppose the school shutdowns but did not. “He could have influenced the governor,” she said.
Mr. Sweeney’s loss amounts to a seismic restructuring of political power and influence, leaving a substantial vacuum in the State Legislature; Mr. Sweeney had held the post of senate president, with the ability to set the legislative agenda, for nearly 12 years.
In the Trump era, Republicans were seen as doomed to a permanent minority in New Jersey, as voters’ deep contempt for the former president was strong enough to turn the long-held Republican suburbs blue; Democrats flipped four House seats in the 2018 midterm elections.
But the surprising defeat of Mr. Sweeney, coupled with Mr. Murphy’s slim margin of victory and unexpectedly tight races involving popular rising Democratic stars in the state like Vin Gopal, a state senator from Monmouth County, reveals a Republican Party that seems to be marching back to relevance.
Mr. Ciattarelli’s efforts and spending led the way, allowing lesser candidates like Mr. Durr, who lives in a house next to his mother in southern New Jersey, to gather momentum.
Mr. Durr told news outlets that he had spent $153 on his campaign, but financial disclosure reports indicate he spent roughly $2,200 on his race. His meager campaign included the 80-second campaign video, where he accentuated his working-class roots with an opening scene of his stepping down from his truck cab, and ending with his riding away on a motorcycle. Indeed, when his victory was announced, Mr. Durr was on a shift driving his truck.
His campaign, which largely consisted of his video, lawn signs and door knocking, projected more grievance than platforms, taking issue with the coronavirus policies of Mr. Murphy and claiming Mr. Sweeney “sat by and watched.” He also focused on the state’s high cost of living.