Republican Edward Durr defeated New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney in New Jersey’s third district.
“I was never really a big political person, I’m very blue collar. My father was a carpenter, I did carpentry, and then I gravitated into truck driving — that’s what I do for a living, I’m a truck driver,” explained Durr during an August interview with Elizabeth Nader.
Now Edward Durr, truck driver, has picked up a new side hustle as a state senator, one who earned his seat by vanquishing the upper chamber’s — and arguably the state’s — most powerful political figure. Durr has said that his seemingly quixotic run for office was inspired by a local sheriff telling him not to “bother” applying for a concealed carry permit. Durr has never been arrested.
“That really angered me and so I looked into what can you do to get into politics,” explained Durr.
Did Sweeney ever stand a chance once those fateful words left that sheriff’s mouth?
Despite having spent only $153 in total — $66.64 at Dunkin Donuts and $86.67 on campaign materials — Durr led Sweeney 32,497 to 30,268 on Thursday morning, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
While it is his own experience with government that served as the inciting incident for Durr’s unlikely ascendance, his campaign focused on issues that resonated with his district: COVID restrictions, high taxes, and the economy more generally. These are the issues that Dan Scharfenberger, executive director of the Senate Republican Majority for the 2021 election cycle, told National Review drove voters to vote Republican all across the state.
“The simple explanation for it is that this is a backlash. A backlash against a governor who has governed from the far-left every step of the way and a Democratic legislature who has enabled him every step of the way,” said Scharfenberger.
According to the executive director tasked with eating into Democrats’ majority in the Senate, Republicans paired a heavy emphasis on improving the economy with “a family message.” He argues that theses two issues “paired well together” and helped the GOP gain somewhere between one and three seats in the upper chamber this cycle, depending on how the results in a few outstanding districts turn out.
In a homemade ad released by Durr, he laments the closing of small businesses, the loss of thousands of jobs, and the net outflow of citizens from New Jersey.
While Durr’s win comes as a shock nationally, Scharfenberger says he never thought the third district was a “safe” Democratic seat, and noted that Sweeney faced headwinds from both Durr and the progressive left. Nevertheless, Scharfenberger acknowledged that he invested more resources into other South Jersey races, and characterized Durr’s triumph as “organic.”
Durr’s victory comes in the context of a strong Republican performance throughout New Jersey — where Jack Ciattarelli nearly shocked incumbent Democratic governor Phil Murphy — and the country. In Virginia, the only other state that featuring a gubernatorial race, Republicans swept the contests for statewide office.