How a truck driver spent $153 on his New Jersy election campaign to likely dethrone a political kingpin. The man who is poised to topple one of New Jersey’s most feared political kingpins has never held public office, he has been a commercial truck driver for 25 years and he claims to have spent a whopping $153 on his entire campaign.
His name is Edward Durr, and he may be on the verge of one of the most unthinkable upsets in New Jersey political history.
With 98% of the vote counted, Durr, the Republican Senate candidate in the South Jersey-based 3rd legislative district, leads New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney by roughly 2,000 votes; 32,134 to 30,125.
Sweeney, a Democrat, is the longest-tenured Senate president in New Jersey history, having held the post since 2010. He was expected to serve a seventh term in the position before launching a possible bid for governor in 2025.
That was before he was taken on by a no-name challenger in Durr, who has miraculously knocked Sweeney on his heels in a race that was never considered more than an afterthought.
“I have no idea what’s going on. I am really trying to grasp all of this,” Durr said early this morning when interviewed outside his home in Swedesboro by FOX29 in Philadelphia. “I knew it would be a major upset. I did what I could.”
Durr, a lifelong New Jersey resident with three kids and six grandchildren, announced his intentions to challenge Sweeney earlier this year to little fanfare. In fact, a link to his campaign website brings up error codes.
He compared his quest in challenging Sweeney to restoring a rusted, broken down 1964 Mustang that’s sitting on bald tires in his front yard. Like the car, New Jersey had good bones and a strong foundation. “What it requires now is someone to show it a little TLC,” Durr said.
He built his bare-bones campaign at the grassroots level, walking door-to-door throughout the district, wearing jeans and tennis shoes and introducing himself to voters. In ads, Durr is hopping down from his commercial-grade truck or revving the engine on his motorcycle, appearing like the quintessential suburban dad — and in stark contrast to Sweeney, often besuited and photographed over lecterns in the state capital.
“The Senate President has spent 20 years in Trenton,” Durr said in a campaign video. “Higher taxes, increasing debt and the rising cost of living. We deserve better. New Jersey, it’s time for a change.”
Interviewed Wednesday morning outside his home, he appeared almost shocked to be leading Sweeney.
“I’ve said this before: I’m as blue-collar as you’re ever going to find,” Durr said.
Senate Democrats were scheduled to gather Thursday to pick new caucus leadership. But Sweeney postponed the meeting.
“Due to the closeness of several State Senate elections, the Leadership Caucus scheduled for tomorrow will be delayed,” Sweeney said. “The Caucus will be rescheduled once the result of every Senate election is determined.”
One of Sweeney’s chief allies in South Jersey, Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), also, to the surprise of many political insiders, trailed in his legislative race. Burzichelli has been the Assembly Appropriations Chair since 2012.
A Sweeney loss would significantly change the landscape of state politics, giving rise to a new Senate president and likely shifting the dynamic between the Legislature and the governor’s office.
As Senate president, Sweeney decides what bills are voted on in the Legislature’s upper chamber and which of the governor’s nominees receive confirmation hearings. He has clashed with Murphy during the past four years on everything from taxes to tax credits. While both are Democrats, Sweeney is seen as a moderate and Murphy as more progressive.
New Jersey on Wednesday reported another 1,026 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths as kids between the ages of 5 and 11 began receiving the first pediatric vaccine doses.
The state’s seven-day average for confirmed positive tests is 1,098, down 4% from a week ago and 32% from a month ago. It’s the lowest seven-day average since Aug. 5.
The statewide rate of transmission rose to 1.01 from 0.99 on Tuesday and 0.96 on Monday. The rate is back above the key benchmark of 1, which suggests the spread of COVID-19 is expanding. Any transmission rate above 1 indicates that each infected person is passing the virus to at least one other person and the outbreak is expanding.
There were 680 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases across New Jersey’s 71 hospitals as of Tuesday night. There were 97 patients discharged in the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday night. Of those hospitalized, 170 were in intensive care (eight more than the previous night), with 91 of them on ventilators (one fewer).
The statewide positivity rate for tests conducted Friday, the most recent day available, was 3.89%.
The delta variant of the virus, which is more contagious than previous variants, now represents 100% of all cases circulating, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has said.
New Jersey’s numbers have been steadily improving in recent weeks. But officials have warned that weather keeps getting colder and the holiday season is approaching. That will likely force more people to gather indoors and could cause another bump in the numbers.
More than 6 million people who live, work or study in New Jersey — a state of about 9.2 million residents — have now been fully vaccinated. Gov. Phil Murphy has said more than 75% of those eligible in the state have been fully vaccinated.
More than 7.16 million people in the state have received at least one dose, and about 616,000 people have received third doses or boosters.
Doctors, pharmacies and health facilities around the state began administering the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11 on Wednesday after receiving final federal approvals.
New Jersey has 760,000 children in that age group and the state has ordered 203,800 doses of the pediatric Pfizer vaccine, which is one-third the dose for those 12 and over. There will 230 sites representing all 21 counties scheduled to receive the pediatric doses.
Murphy on Monday also updated the state’s breakthrough numbers. There have been a total of 42,358 cases among fully vaccinated people leading to 911 hospitalizations and 241 deaths, though those represent a small percentage total cases.
From Oct. 11 to 17, the state had 11,450 positive tests. Of those, 2,199 were from fully vaccinated people and those cases led to 24 hospitalizations (out of 725 total) and two deaths (out of 123 total).
Thirteen of New Jersey’s 21 counties are listed as having “high” rates of coronavirus transmission, while eight are listed with “substantial” transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is recommending that all people in the high and substantial transmission counties wear masks for indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status.
Through the first several weeks of the school year, districts in New Jersey have reported at least 137 in-school outbreaks, for a total of 715 cases as of last week. That’s an increase of 11 outbreaks from the previous week, though officials say the numbers have been within reason.
The state reported 30 new outbreaks the previous week. Every county except Burlington and Warren have reported at least one in-school outbreak. The total of 715 cases is cumulative and does not reflect active cases.
In-school outbreaks are defined as three or more cases that are determined through contact tracing to have been transmitted among staff or students while at school. They do not include total cases among staff and students.
New Jersey, an early epicenter of the pandemic, has now reported 28,011 total COVID-19 deaths in the nearly 20 months since the start of the outbreak — 25,195 confirmed and 2,816 considered probable, according to the state dashboard. The probable deaths, which are revised weekly, increased Monday by two fatalities.