Ciattarelli formally concedes in New Jersey to Phil Murphy

New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli on Friday conceded his loss in the state’s governor’s contest to Gov. Phil MurphyPhil MurphyFire breaks out at NJ chemical plant: 'The worst that I've ever seen' Biden administration announces actions bolstering clean energy  The Hill's Morning Report - Biden champions filibuster reform, but doesn't have the votes MORE (D), more than a week after the race was called for the incumbent. 

Ciattarelli, a former state assemblyman, said his campaign had concluded that he could not overcome the nearly 3-point margin Murphy had after days of keeping an eye on the vote tally and insisting that it was too early to throw in the towel. 

“And so I called Gov. Murphy earlier today and congratulated him on his reelection and wished him well in serving the people of New Jersey,” Ciattarelli said at a press conference Friday. 

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The announcement marks an end to what had been a stunningly tight gubernatorial election.

Polls had shown Murphy, who was first elected in 2017, with a comfortable lead, albeit one that had winnowed down to the mid- to high-single digits. As such, the race was on few operatives’ radars. 

However, on Election Day last week, Ciattarelli led Murphy into the wee hours of the following morning, sparking speculation he could pull off an upset in a state President BidenJoe BidenUS threatens sweeping export controls against Russian industries Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country MORE carried by 16 points last year.

Murphy did not pull ahead until several hours after the polls had closed, when late counts from heavily leaning Democratic areas finally started pouring in. 

Ciattarelli’s campaign in subsequent days refused to concede, insisting that there was still a path given Murphy’s narrow margin and the outstanding ballots left to be counted.

While that calculation ended Friday, Ciattarelli said he was “proud” of the campaign he ran.

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“I do not see the result of this election as a failure. On the contrary, I am proud of what our campaign accomplished, proud of how we helped reinvigorate the Republican Party and mobilize new people who had never been involved before,” he said. 

Besides conceding, Ciattarelli also sought to tamp down any speculation from pockets of his party that would suggest the election was marred by fraud. 

“To those who are disappointing that I am conceding, to those whose faith in our election system is shaken, to those who are angry that I’m not asking for a recount today, let me say this: I have worked every day and night for 22 months to become New Jersey’s governor. If you think I’d be standing here today conceding if I thought I won this election, you couldn’t be more wrong,” he said. “I hate to lose.”

“Enough votes have been counted. There does not appear to be a path to victory or the basis of a recount, nor do we know of any systemic or widespread fraud. So no, I see no proof that this election is stolen.” 

Despite his loss, Ciattarelli drew national attention with his tighter-than-expected challenge to Murphy, and he forecasted that he’ll run again in four years  a campaign that would likely be buoyed by more establishment support than it received this year.

“That is exactly my plan,” he said. “I’ll be running for governor in four years.”