How a little-known New Jersey truck driver defeated a top state Senate power broker on less than $10,000 – USA TODAY

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State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, one of New Jersey’s most powerful Democrats, has lost his re-election bid to a little-known trucker, according to a call of the race Thursday by the Associated Press.

But the apparent winner, Edward Durr, declined to declare victory Thursday.

Sweeney, a union president who’s held the 3rd District seat since 2002, could not be reached for immediate comment.

More results: Election results updates: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wins tight race; Biden says ‘people are upset and uncertain’

Sweeney’s apparent defeat has caused turmoil in Trenton, where Senate Democrats have postponed a leadership caucus originally scheduled for Thursday.

“Due to the closeness of several State Senate elections, the Leadership Caucus scheduled for tomorrow will be delayed,” Sweeney said in a statement that announced the delay on Wednesday. “The caucus will be rescheduled once the result of every Senate election is determined.”

The Senate bid was the third campaign for Durr, a furniture company deliveryman who lost races for a Logan council seat last year and for a 3rd District Assembly seat in 2019.

The Associated Press did not call other 3rd District races, but Sweeney’s running mates – Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro – also seemed in jeopardy.

“Mathematically, it’s over,” Steve Kush, a strategist for Gloucester County’s Republican organization, said Wednesday morning as results showed GOP candidates in the lead.

Those results had Sweeney trailing Durr by about 2,000 votes.

Durr on Thursday pushed back on an oft-repeated storyline that his campaign spent less than $200 to unseat the senate president. Durr says he spent somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 in the campaign.

“It’s a story I keep trying to squash. I just don’t understand, because that was prior to the primary,” the senator-elect said.

An Oct. 26 filing with the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission shows a $153 expense for the 3rd District Republicans’ joint campaign, covering the cost of food for poll workers and campaign literature.

But a campaign filing on Wednesday showed additional outlays of about $2,160 from Durr’s account for campaign literature, signs and other expenses.

In contrast, an Oct. 4 filing by Sweeney for Senate showed spending of $490,576,46, including $400,000 to a joint campaign for the 3rd District Democrats.

Other spending included more than $7,000 for political meetings at restaurants and more than $50,000 directed to other Democratic campaigns. 

That left Sweeney’s campaign with a balance of almost $800,000 – a number boosted by more than $116,000 in contributions received later that month.

Sweeney and Durr ran neck and neck in portions of the district in Gloucester and Cumberland counties. Voters in Salem County appeared to push Durr into the lead.

Tuesday’s election results also showed GOP candidates apparently beating two other long-time Democratic officials in Gloucester County  — Commission Director Robert Damminger and Sheriff Carmel Morina.

Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.