Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Stephen Sweeney, N.J. Senate President, Loses to Republican Truck Driver

The main lesson I would take from recent elections is that normies dislike establishment politicians, and outsiders are guaranteed at least some kind of audience, but normies don’t like perceived extremists, either.

Nick Corasaniti and

Mr. Sweeney, the second most powerful lawmaker in New Jersey and a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election to Edward Durr, a driver for a furniture chain.

For nearly a decade, Stephen M. Sweeney, the second most powerful lawmaker in New Jersey, seemed truly unassailable. He boasted deep ties to the most feared political power broker in the state and unyielding support from the influential building trade unions. Four years ago, the state’s teachers’ union spent more than $5 million to unseat him. He won by 18 points.

This year, his challenger was Edward Durr, a truck driver for Raymour & Flanigan, a furniture chain, who had never before held office. His campaign video was shot on a smartphone.

Yet Mr. Sweeney, the State Senate president and a Democrat, was ousted in a shocking political upset by Mr. Durr, a Republican, as voters opted for a political unknown in a result that immediately rattled the political moorings of the state. Voters also nearly ousted Gov. Philip D. Murphy; the governor narrowly won re-election over his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, leading by 1.6 percentage points.

But it was Mr. Sweeney’s loss that was perhaps best emblematic of the predicament facing Democrats in suburban, exurban and rural communities.

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