Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated Republican Donald Trump in New Jersey in the presidential contest Tuesday, cementing her party’s nearly quarter-century lock on the state’s 14 electoral votes and overcoming Trump’s support from Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Polls closed at 8 p.m. and voters, many who waited in line for hours, also cast ballots for the state’s U.S. House seats and ballot questions on expanding casino gambling and using the gas tax only for transportation.
New Jersey was not considered a battleground, and Democrats have won the state in every presidential election from 1992 onward.
But Trump’s New Jersey ties ran deep. He controlled a casino empire in Atlantic City and still owns a golf course in the state, and Christie is a top adviser and chairman of the Trump White House transition team, and a friend of 15 years.
Still, Republicans could not overcome the Democratic voter registration advantage, which Democrats expanded in November to a margin of 862,000 from 688,000 in January. Her victory also comes with Christie at record-low approval ratings in New Jersey and as he enters his final year in office, bruised from the recently concluded trial in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal that resulted in convictions of two former allies.
New Jersey is a reliably Democratic state having picked a Democrat in every presidential contest from 1992 onward. Democrats boosted their over Republicans in the state by 174,000 from January of this year to November, according to recent data from the Division of Elections.
Most New Jersey voters say they had their minds made up in the presidential election long before they cast their ballots Tuesday. About 3 in 4 voters surveyed in an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks said they made their decision between Clinton and Trump before September. About 1 in 10 waited until the last few days to decide.
The preliminary exit poll of 1,037 voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research in a random sample of 25 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
Secretary of State spokesman Shawn Crisafulli said the state has not seen any red flags and no complaints had been lodged other than issues about long lines. Voters in Jersey City complained of lines that lasted more than three hours.
The most closely watched contests include northern New Jersey’s 5th District, where incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett faces a strong challenge from Democrat Josh Gottheimer.
Mary O’Neill, 81, has lived in Glen Rock for 45 years and considers herself a longtime fan of Hillary Clinton. “Hillary and I go back a long way, back to when her husband was running for president,” she said.
O’Neill said she voted for Clinton because she has always admired her ability and experience.
Like others, O’Neill’s expressed dismay at the negative tone of the campaign, and particularly Donald Trump’s comments about women.
“I think it was really appalling,” she said. “Aggravating, too.”
In Hamilton, Teresa Durso, 69, a retired store worker, said she had voted for Democrats her whole life until she changed parties in June to become a Republican.
She said she voted for Trump because he’s a “non-politician, a businessman” and “that’s the type of leader we need today.”
She said she couldn’t support Clinton because she doesn’t trust her, but would support her if she wins “because as Americans, we should support our top leaders, but I don’t think she’ll be effective.”
George Schubert, 70, a retired garment industry worker who lives in Hamilton Township, pointed to an American flag pin on his shirt and said he voted because it’s his duty as an American.
He said that he didn’t think either candidate was a fit for the nation’s top job, but chose Trump because he was less impressed with the third-party candidates and he was the GOP candidate.
“Whoever wins has to do something about the economy, that’s the main thing,” Schubert said. “If that economic engine ain’t turning, the country isn’t going to be going anywhere. Get people jobs, they’ll be productive and have income to spend, and everyone benefits.”