Democrats scored a pair of major gubernatorial victories Tuesday, based on ABC News’ analysis of the exit poll and analysis of the vote, landing new governors in New Jersey and Virginia as the party attempted to showcase resilience one year after President Donald Trump‘s surprise election victory.
In Virginia, which was expected to be the closer of the two races, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam prevailed over former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, based on ABC News’ analysis of the vote, while in New Jersey, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy beat Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, based on ABC News’ analysis of the exit poll.
Northam received 53.9 percent of the vote to Gillespie’s 44.9 percent in Virginia, with over 99 percent of precincts reporting, as of 10:30 p.m. ET. Murphy attained 55.3 percent of the vote in New Jersey to Guadagno’s 42.7 percent with over 88 percent of the state’s precinct’s reporting, as of 10:30 p.m. ET.
The Virginia race, in particular, took on the air of a referendum on Trump throughout the campaign. The commonwealth’s status as a swing state in presidential years and the stark divide between its suburban northern region and rural Appalachian southwest turned it into a representative test case on the country’s response to the two major political parties a year after electing the former real-estate mogul.
Though Trump had not personally campaigned for the Republican in Virginia, Northam’s campaign attempted to tie the president to Gillespie, banking on Trump’s unpopularity in the commonwealth to help secure the fourth gubernatorial victory for Democrats in the past five Virginia races.
“It was said that the eyes of the nation are now on the commonwealth,” said Northam in his victory speech Tuesday evening. “Today, Virginians have answered and have spoken.”
Northam continued by pledging to “put the people of Virginia before politics, before party and before ideology,” and by noting the increasing diversity of the U.S. and of the commonwealth. He said that his administration will endeavor to make Virginia as welcoming a place as possible.
“Our lights will be on, our doors will be open,” he said.
In New Jersey, sweeping backlash to the deeply unpopular Gov. Chris Christie became the driving force behind Murphy’s election campaign. The former ambassador’s first run for elected office found him tying Christie to his lieutenant governor, Guadagno, but in his victory speech, he pledged that “the days of division are over.”
“Starting here, and starting with us, New Jersey is coming back,” Murphy said, before pledging to put together a diverse administration that reflects the population of the state.
“We will rebuild our state from the bottom up, and from the middle out,” he added.
The New Jersey election was dominated by talk of the governor, who is among the least popular in U.S. history, based on polls of his job approval. Murphy had argued that a Guadagno governorship would represent a continuation of Christie’s tenure, while Guadagno pointed to moments of disagreement with her boss to attempt to distance herself from the two-term governor and former Republican presidential primary candidate.
Trump was notably quiet on the race in the traditionally blue state where Murphy led Guadagno by consistent double-digit margins in polls ranging back to the spring. Recent polls showed the Democrat with a lead of between 10-15 points.