TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey lawmaker Steve Sweeney said Wednesday he is conceding his state Senate race against Republican Edward Durr, a truck driver from the rural town of Swedesboro.
Sweeney, a Democrat, is the longest-serving legislative leader in the history of the state, but suffered a stunning upset loss in the 3rd Legislative District on Election Day. Sweeney, who has served the district since 2002 and has been Senate president since 2010, had previously been talked about as a possible candidate for governor in 2025.READ MORE: Anne Donnelly, Nassau County's New District Attorney, On Her Goals In Office: 'A Big Responsibility That I Take Seriously'
“The results of Tuesday’s election are in, all votes have been fairly counted, and I, of course, accept the results,” Sweeney said, before congratulating Durr and wishing him the best of luck. “The people of the 3rd Legislative District are the best in New Jersey. It has been an honor and a privilege to represent them in the state Senate, and to serve as the president of the state Senate.”
.@NJSenatePres concedes he lost to Ed Durr.
“I, of course, accept the results” of the election, he says, and congratulates Durr.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege” representing third legislative district, he says. pic.twitter.com/hLblwJL14p
— Dustin Racioppi (@dracioppi) November 10, 2021
In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy thanked Sweeney for his many years of service.
“Senate President Steve Sweeney has had an incredible career, one that is incomparable in state history. He has been a partner in the vast majority of the progress we’ve made in the last four years, and without him New Jersey would undoubtedly be a worse place for working families. He will remain a friend to me and Tammy, and I wish him nothing but the best as he pivots to the next phase of his career,” Murphy said.
Sweeney reflected on some of his accomplishments, including the Paid Family Leave bill, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.
“I got into politics after my daughter, Lauren, was born premature, weighing just 2 pounds with developmental disabilities. I was able to stay with her in the hospital for two months because I had a good union job with good benefits,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney was known for standing up to then-Gov. Chris Christie and reaching across the aisle to work with Republican colleagues. John Wisniewski is a former state legislator.
“Senate president, Assembly speaker wield enormous power. Not a single bill gets posted without their okay. In the Senate, the power is also the power of appointment,” Wisniewski said.
Wisniewski said the loss of Sweeney in South Jersey changes the power dynamics in the state. Sen. Nicholas Scutari is the front-runner to fill the Senate president’s seat. He is from Union County.READ MORE: Republican Vickie Paladino Defeats Democrat Tony Avella For New York City Council Seat
“Legislative leaders in the two houses generally don’t come from the same region of the state. Now you have the Senate president and the Assembly speaker, Craig Coughlin, literally from adjoining Assembly districts, legislative districts, which is unprecedented in the state,” Wisniewski said.
Sweeney added he doesn’t intend to disappear from the political landscape.
“New Jerseyans want this to be a place where all residents can afford to live and thrive. I will be speaking from a different podium, but, I promise you, I will be just as loud and just as forceful for a voice for change,” Sweeney said.
Durr describes himself as Christian and blue collar with strong conservative beliefs. He’s a member of the National Rifle Association and a truck driver for Raymour & Flanigan. He barely campaigned, and his campaign video was shot from a smartphone.
“To Sen. Sweeney, I congratulate you on a long career. Who knows? Maybe someday we can have a beer together,” Durr said Wednesday.
Durr defeated Sweeney by a little more than 2,200 votes.
“It was a red wave,” Sweeney said.
“Voters have the right to surprise elected officials, and that’s what happened in this particular case,” Wisniewski said.
A vote to fill the state Senate presidency is expected to be held Friday.MORE NEWS: Democrat Laura Curran Concedes Nassau County Executive Race To Republican Challenger Bruce Blakeman
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.