(CNN)Republican Ed Durr will defeat Democratic state Sen. Steve Sweeney, the Senate president, in New Jersey’s state Senate district 3, CNN projects.
Durr spent two decades as a commercial truck driver and decided to run against Sweeney when he was denied a concealed carry permit for a gun.
Sweeney, the longest-tenured state Senate leader in New Jersey history, had been considered the favorite to win the South Jersey seat he was first elected to in 2001.
His ouster at the hands of a Republican who, along with the two other GOP candidates on his slate, spent — as of 11 days before the election — fewer than $2,500, underscores the depth of the Election Day voter revolt against leading Democrats. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who was expected to easily win a second term, squeaked by his GOP challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, by only about two percentage points.
Durr in his campaign video cast Sweeney as a rubber stamp for Murphy, saying he “sat by and watched” as Murphy mishandled the Covid-19 pandemic. Durr also criticized the state’s tax policies, a staple of Ciattarelli’s campaign message.
“The Senate President has spent 20 years in Trenton,” Durr says in the clip, which begins with him exiting the cab of a truck and ends with him riding off on a motorcycle. “Higher taxes, increasing debt and rising cost of living — we deserve better. New Jersey, it’s time for a change. So together, let’s end single-party rule.”
Sweeney, who has beaten back better-organized, heavily funded challengers in the past, has not yet conceded the race.
Despite the Republican’s surprise victory, New Jersey’s legislature will remain under Democratic control. But the backlash in New Jersey and Virginia, where Democrats lost the governor’s mansion and full control of the House of Delegates, has sent shockwaves across the country.
Democrats already expecting a challenging 2022 midterm election season are now scrambling to draw up a message to protect the party’s fragile congressional majorities.
Asked during a Fox News interview on Wednesday, the night after the election, what his priority was when he arrived at the state Capitol, Durr promised to be a “voice for the people,” but was short on specifics.
“I really don’t know. That’s the key factor. I don’t know what I don’t know, so I will learn what I need to know,” Durr said. “I’m going to guarantee you one thing: I will be the voice, and people will hear me, because if there’s one thing people will learn about me, I’ve got a big mouth.”
This story has been updated with additional details Friday.
CNN’s Jennifier Agiesta and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.