Republicans gain seats in Assembly, win special Senate election in ‘Murphy midterms’

“Jon Bramnick | AP Photo”

WESTFIELD — Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who preaches civility and bipartisanship, was reelected Tuesday after a difficult race in which he faced an aggressive and well-funded challenge by Democrats and a vote-siphoning effort by two “independent conservatives.”

Bramnick’s victory in Central Jersey’s 21st Legislative District came as Republicans were poised to pick up two to four seats in the Assembly — where all 80 seats were up for grabs — and won a special state Senate election in South Jersey despite being massively outspent, staunching the party’s major losses in both houses over the previous four years. The GOP gains were also a rebuke to Gov. Phil Murphy in his first midterm election, as well as to his intra-party rivals, the South Jersey Democrats.

In his victory speech, Bramnick (R-Union), whose running mate, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Union), was also reelected, said “common sense prevailed today in District 21.”

“Nancy and I were challenged by the left and the right, which tells the state of New Jersey that you can be bipartisan, you can be reasonable,“ said Bramnick, who has represented the 21st District since 2003 and has served as the Republican leader in the lower house since 2012.

Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt had dubbed the election the “Murphy midterms,” attacking the governor’s attempts — both successful and unsuccessful — to raise taxes, while Democrats tied Republicans to President Donald Trump and former Gov. Chris Christie. Republicans also seized on a recent Murphy quote in which he said, “if you’re a one-issue voter, and the tax rate is your issue … we’re probably not your state.”

Bramnick agreed Murphy bore responsibility for Democratic losses.

“This was the first time Phil Murphy faced the music,” he said. “Millions of dollars were spent, and he said ‘If taxes are your main issue, New Jersey is not for you.’ No question, this had to do with Phil Murphy. I hope he got the message.”

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