It may be sometime before a winner is officially declared in New Jersey's race for governor, but we are getting a closer look at what was driving people to the polls on Tuesday.

As I counted the votes last night on-air for New Jersey 101.5, I also had the chance to speak with voters about what motivated them to cast a ballot this year.

Pandemic related issues were certainly a big factor, but pocketbook issues were also a key driver. We saw taxes emerge as a the number one issue in pre-election polls. Affordability issues were often cited in my conversations with listeners last night. One caller, a truck driver, told me he already has a house in Florida and if Murphy is re-elected he will likely leave because he fears not being able to afford to stay here.

I also spoke with many of you who were motivated by some hotly contested local races. So-called "down ballot" races, like school board, seem to have upped the vote totals in many New Jersey districts.

Whether is was mask mandates, fear of a vaccine mandate or curriculum related issues such as critical race theory and LGBTQ+ lessons, a good number of callers say that is what motivated them to vote on Tuesday. Some admitted they had not voted in a while, and were returning to the voting booth to vote for school board candidates.

These education issues generally favor republicans, in terms of getting out the vote, and that could be partly responsible for some of the large GOP numbers we were seeing in some counties, including Monmouth, Ocean and Bergen.

A fairly large number of young voters also called in last night to say they were engaged. That's good to see and hear.

While the majority of callers last night indicated strong support for Jack Ciattarelli, Phil Murphy has his supporters as well. A woman from Camden, for example, cited Murphy's handling of the COVID crisis as the reason she gave him her vote. That aligns with polling data that showed most New Jersey residents giving Murphy high marks for his pandemic policies.

What does this all mean? Regardless of which way callers voted, it showed an engaged public that was passionate about an election for the first time in many years. That's likely to be reflected in turnout numbers. It also shows a large number of New Jersey residents are not quite ready to give up on life in the Great Garden state.

Regardless of how the election is ultimately decided, that may be the best thing to come out of last night.

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