Who is NJ’s newest political star, Edward Durr? He talks to Dennis & Judi
Republican candidate Edward Durr, a 58-year-old Swedesboro resident employed as a truck driver for the Raymour & Flanigan furniture chain, appeared Thursday to have knocked off six-term Democrat and longtime state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a stunning result that promised to rattle the structure of legislative leadership in Trenton.
If Durr's victory, as called by the Associated Press, holds, he would be a first-time officeholder, but not a complete novice to the political process, as he explained on New Jersey 101.5's "Dennis & Judi" show Thursday afternoon.
Before he could even wrap his head around the stunning victory, Durr was already having to apologize for social media posts that called Islam “a false religion,” compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and defended rioters at the Capitol.
On Thursday and Friday, media reports highlighted posts Durr had made on Twitter and Facebook, including some critical of immigrants, boasting of defying state COVID-19 mask mandates, and making misogynist attacks on Democratic elected officials like then-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Durr issued a statement Thursday night to radio station WHYY, and Friday to the website New Jersey Globe apologizing for the posts.
“I’m a passionate guy and I sometimes say things in the heat of the moment,” Durr said in identical comments to both outlets. “If I said things in the past that hurt anybody’s feelings, I sincerely apologize.”
Having run unsuccessfully for State Assembly in 2017 and 2019, Durr told hosts Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco that it took him "half a second to say yes" when Gloucester County GOP chair Jacci Vigilante approached him last winter about angling for Sweeney's 3rd District seat.
Such a proposition might have seemed like a long shot at best. Malloy reminded listeners of Sweeney's last re-election bid in 2017, when the New Jersey Education Association, the state's top teachers' union, spent $5 million to back a Republican candidate — and couldn't unseat the powerful Democrat.
That may be one reason why the headline of Durr apparently spending just $153 on his campaign, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, has gotten so much play in the days following the election.
Late Thursday afternoon, an Associated Press report revised that figure to about $2,300, citing ELEC filings.
In Thursday's on-air interview, Durr said he wanted to "squash" the $153 story, explaining that that was for the primary phase, and in the general election fight against Sweeney, he built up a war chest of donations and personal funds approaching $10,000, spending between $6,000 and $7,000.
When asked by Franco about his education level, Durr said he did not go to college, and has been "blue-collar all my life."
But he added that he knows "my soul, my core," and won't worry about what is said about him once he reports to the Statehouse.
"I've got a big mouth and I don't shut up, so let me be that guy who screams and hollers in Trenton," Durr said, however acknowledging that his new side gig might require him to "listen more and say less."
Malloy and Franco asked Durr why he decided to run, and what made him believe Sweeney might be vulnerable.
According to Durr, Sweeney declined to schedule a debate before the general election.
"I've always felt the man ignored his constituents, and so I reveled at the opportunity to get out there," Durr said, adding, "I believed in myself. I believed in the anger of the people. I knew that they were upset with the agenda and the policy of Gov. Murphy."
Still, Durr said he would be lying if he didn't start to feel a little shocked, watching from home with his family as returns started to come in Tuesday night.
Durr remained employed by Raymour & Flanigan through the COVID-19 pandemic, but said he felt the pain the health crisis was causing as he continued to make deliveries and interact with other New Jerseyans.
"Our legislature sat down and did absolutely nothing for the last year and a half while this pandemic had taken place, and they've been ignored — people have suffered greatly in this state," he said.
Having defeated a politician seeking his seventh term, Durr made no indication as to whether he would follow the lead of Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, and term-limit himself.
On Thursday afternoon, Sweeney released a statement through the New Jersey Senate Democrats office, acknowledging that "I am currently trailing in the race" but offering no concession, adding that "we want to make sure every vote is counted" and that he "will wait for the final results."
Neither Durr nor Sweeney responded to the New Jersey 101.5 newsroom's requests for additional comment.