Trucker unseats longtime NJ Senate president by spending almost nothing — here's how

Trucker unseats longtime NJ Senate president by spending almost nothing — here's how
© Edward Durr's twitter page

His name is Ed Durr. He's a New Jersey trucker for the furniture store Raymour & Flanigan. He is 58 and has never held public office. 

In a political season of big surprises, this may be the biggest: Durr just unseated Steve Sweeney, who has served as the New Jersey state Senate’s president for more than a decade, the longest-serving legislative leader in state history. 

“I’m a numbers guy and I’ve looked at the numbers over the years,” Durr said in an interview over the summer with commentator Elizabeth Nader. “We have a district that is 150,000 voters. Sen. Sweeney has never broken 32,000 votes ... and so I felt if he can’t even get half the district, that means there’s numbers out there to be taken, and you just have to get people to come out and vote. I believe if they come out and vote, we could win."  


Durr's math was correct. He tallied 32,497 votes to Sweeney’s 30,268 votes and was declared the victor on Thursday. The shock had to be particularly painful for Sweeney, who just four years ago won reelection in what may have been the most expensive legislative race in U.S. history.


Speaking of numbers, Durr spent exactly $153 on his primary race, which is about equal to three tanks of gas in your average compact car in New Jersey. Of that $153, he spent $66.64 at a Dunkin’ Donuts on food and drinks for his staff, and spent $86.67 for flyers and business cards. In the general election, Durr estimates he spent a whopping $8,000 to $9,000, still a fraction of a fraction of what is usually spent in these races.

Sweeney reportedly raised $908,794 and spent $490,576.

So how does a guy who previously ran just twice for local office (losing both times), and who spent almost no money, unseat a guy who had been in the state Senate since 2002? 

He used what was free and available to anyone on the planet: social media.  

Durr's campaign videos consisted of someone filming him on a cell phone and posting it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and his campaign website.  


"It was the combination of a governor who acts like a king, and a Senate president who acts like a court jester and does nothing,” Durr said this week after his victory became a real possibility. “That made it very easy to convince people they were not being paid attention to. And when they got ignored, they got angry.”

But Durr's newfound notoriety has invited scrutiny via reporters going through his past tweets dating back years. 

Durr has apologized for the online statements but refuses to be cancelled. 
“I’m a passionate guy and I sometimes say things in the heat of the moment. If I said things in the past that hurt anybody’s feelings, I sincerely apologize,” Durr said in a statement on Friday morning. And that appears to be the end of it. 


One has to wonder what Durr's truly grassroots campaign will do to inspire future candidates. His victory in New Jersey comes as another rookie politician, Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinFive issues that will define the months until the midterms  Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Parnell exit threatens to hurt Trump's political clout MORE, took it to Clinton royalty in the form of Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffeFive issues that will define the months until the midterms  Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season BBB threatens the role of parents in raising — and educating — children MORE in Virginia. 

The former Carlyle Group CEO pulled off his upset by focusing on three issues that matter most to Virginia residents: the economy, education and public safety. Juxtapose that with his rival, former Gov. McAuliffe, who brought in Democratic Party stars such as former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden celebrates start of Hanukkah The massive messaging miscues of all the president's men (and women) 'Car guy' Biden puts his spin on the presidency MORE, President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to provide update Monday on US response to omicron variant Restless progressives eye 2024 Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE, first lady Jill BidenJill BidenJill Biden to reveal theme for White House's annual holiday decor Monday Biden attends tree lighting ceremony after day out in Nantucket Biden meets with Coast Guard on Thanksgiving MORE, Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisEmhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony GOP becoming a cult of know-nothings Stowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami MORE and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and who resorted to racism allegations and supporting teacher unions. 




We've heard much about the political swamp lately, particularly during the Trump era. If you're part of the establishment, you're part of the problem. And it doesn't matter if you're a Republican or Democrat. Just ask Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezRestless progressives eye 2024 Five issues that will define the months until the midterms  GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE (D-N.Y.), former bartender, who unseated 10-term Democratic congressman Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyTrucker unseats longtime NJ Senate president by spending almost nothing — here's how Former lawmakers sign brief countering Trump's claims of executive privilege in Jan. 6 investigation Bottom line MORE in 2018 with a playbook similar to Ed Durr's. 


The playing field in politics is starting to seriously expand. Money? Who needs it. A huge campaign staff? Volunteers are more than happy to pitch in for free, if the candidate and message hit the right nerve. A targeted ad-buy on television stations that can cost millions? Social media can potentially reach more people. And the price can't be beat. 

AOC. Glenn Youngkin. Ed Durr. All non-professional politicians doing what was once unthinkable — shaking up the political swamp. 

If you're part of the establishment, here’s a word to the wise when the 2022 election comes around: Complacency is not an option. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.