For the past several weeks, as poll after poll showed Republican Kim Guadagno trailing Democrat Phil Murphy by about 14 points in the race for New Jersey governor, Guadagno campaign officials insisted their own internal polls showed the contest was much closer — and that Guadagno was closing the gap.

And then, on election night, Murphy stormed to victory by about a 14-point margin. Major networks called the race within two minutes of polls closing.

Just before the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, Guadagno spokesman Ricky Diaz described support for the GOP gubernatorial candidate and current lieutenant governor as strong, with a seamless, united grassroots effort from an army of volunteers. He indicated everyone was looking forward to a strong showing by Guadagno.

But a few minutes later CNN projected Murphy as the winner, and a short time after that Townsquare Media News, other major networks and the Associated Press also declared Murphy was New Jersey’s governor-elect.

At 9:39 p.m., Guadagno appeared on stage to deliver her concession speech, congratulating Murphy and thanking her volunteers.

“We left no stone unturned, and we would not have done anything differently,” she said.

That presumably includes her final month of campaigning, dominated by harsh criticisms of Murphy's statements he'd look to make New Jersey a "sanctuary state." Promising to ban sanctuary cities — communities that in one way or another don't cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts, in some cases by refusing to honor immigration detainer requests some courts have called unconstitutional — Guadagno pushed hard on the contrast between their positions.

That included running an ad Murphy called “vile and deceitful" for saying he'd "have the backs of deranged murderers."

Guadagno also said Tuesday her run for governor was for the people of New Jersey.

“Never forget what we were fighting for here. We were fighting for our families, and we will continue our fight for lower taxes and a safer New Jersey. This is not the end, this is the beginning of a good fight,” she said.

The lieutenant governor then told the crowd “we may have lost the battle but we will win this war in the long run, and I look forward to all of you continuing the battle in each one of your hometowns as we go forward.”

Guadagno paraphrased a quote from Teddy Roosevelt about courage and told her supporters “let us continue the fight, let us continue to be the woman and the man in the arena, making sure New Jersey families are well cared for, and a place our families can live and work and find jobs.”

Her speech lasted less than three minutes, and seconds after it was over she waved to the crowd then headed out a back entrance, giving no indication what she will do next, or whether she intends to remain active in politics.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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