TRENTON – Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli urged supporters to remain patient and not fall for online conspiracy theories, as results show he’s falling short in the closest race in New Jersey in a quarter-century.

Ciattarelli also criticized Gov. Phil Murphy’s victory speech last night as premature, announced almost immediately after the Associated Press projected the Democrat had won re-election. Tallies that once showed Ciattarelli ahead now have Murphy leading by more than 56,000 votes, almost 2.3%.

“There are still tens of thousands of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots yet to be counted,” Ciattarelli said. “And so, the governor’s victory speech last night was premature. No one should be declaring victory or conceding the election until every legal vote is counted.”

The latest unofficial results show Murphy with 1,271,381 votes, or 50.7%, and Ciattarelli with 1,214,757 votes, or 48.5%. Third-party and write-in candidates split more than 20,300 votes, 0.8%.

Ciattarelli said his campaign is monitoring the vote-counting process in the 21 counties. Vote-by-mail ballots received by next Monday are counted so long as they were postmarked by Tuesday, and then counties will examine and count qualified provisional ballots starting next Tuesday.

“We’re going to allow the 21 counties to continue with the process of counting every legal vote-by-mail and provisional ballot,” Ciattarelli said. “That could take another week or two, and we’ve got compliance people watching over that. If necessary, any decision on a recount or audit will come at the very end of the counting process, not before.”

The Ciattarelli campaign sent an email to its distribution list Thursday seeking contributions that could conceivably help pay for any court fights or recount.

County boards of canvassers are due to meet Nov. 15 to certify the results in their counties. County clerks have to transmit that information to Secretary of State Tahesha Way by Nov. 20, and the Board of State Canvassers meets to certify the election results by Dec. 2.

Ciattarelli said people “can report any perceived or real irregularity” in the voting to the New Jersey Republican State Committee at 609-288-2925.

“I don’t want people falling victim to wild conspiracy theories or online rumors,” he said. “While consideration is paid to any and all credible reports, please don’t believe everything you see or read online.”

Videos shared on Twitter appear to show voters having trouble voting for Ciattarelli, using their fingers rather than the stylus that was provided to ensure the touchscreen responded. Some people were upset because the in-person vote in Bergen County showed Ciattarelli leading there, but Murphy took the lead once vote-by-mail votes were added late at night.

“Listen, I know how passionate people are about this election and the future of our state. I am, too,” Ciattarelli said. “That’s why I worked so very hard the past 22 months to win this election and get New Jersey on a different path forward. Right now, what’s most important is for everyone to be patient and let the process play out.

“Know this: My team is comprised of some of the best legal and political experts in the country,” he said. “I promise you, whatever the outcome, the election result will be legal and fair. You have my word. Hopefully we’ll be fixing New Jersey together.”

Ciattarelli made his comments in a video posted to his campaign Twitter account.

“Two days ago, shockwaves were sent throughout our state and the national political world, all because a Republican was in position to win the race for governor here in New Jersey,” Ciattarelli said. “Despite what the polls, press and pundits were saying, I knew I could win. Why? Because every time a governor of this state has taken us too far off track, the decent, hardworking people of New Jersey have always risen up and said, ‘That’s not where we want to go.’”

Get our free mobile app

Generally speaking, when Democrats win a governor’s race in New Jersey it’s by a healthy margin. Murphy’s current advantage, more than 56,000 votes, would be the closest win for a Democrat since 1961.

Republican gubernatorial victories have varied from blowouts to squeakers. Christie Whitman won by 26,093 votes in 1993 and by 25,426 in 1997. The all-time closest gubernatorial race in New Jersey was won by Tom Kean in 1981 by 1,797 votes over Jim Florio.

Murphy, incidentally, got more votes this year than he did in 2017. But Ciattarelli has surpassed the GOP’s 2017 nominee, then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, by more than 310,000 votes.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

Goosebumps and other bodily reactions, explained

Cozy winter getaway rentals in NJ

Fireplaces & hot tubs await, from the ski area of North Jersey, to peaceful, off-season lake time in South Jersey.

These house rentals have full amenities, for a relaxing and luxurious staycation.