NJ Senator-elect Ed Durr meets with Islamic leaders after anti-Muslim tweet

"Hate speech is that which leads to violence and that has to end," said Selaedin Maksut of CAIR New Jersey.

ByBob Brooks and Associated Press via WPVI logo
Thursday, November 11, 2021
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Ed Durr responded to tweets he had made previously that called Islam "a false religion," compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and defended rioters at the Capitol.

SEWELL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The Republican state senator-elect who works as a furniture store truck driver and whose victory over New Jersey's powerful Senate president made national headlines acknowledged Wednesday how formidable the new role will be for him and added he's focused on thwarting Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

"I feel like I'm about to throw up," Ed Durr said during a news conference after Senate President Steve Sweeney conceded the race, when asked if there's a learning curve for him. "This is all new to me. It's all overwhelming, but I am very happy that the voters selected me. I'm going to earn that vote and I'm going to prove them right."

Durr, who drives a truck for Raymour & Flanigan, shocked the state and stunned Sweeney by coming out on top in their suburban Philadelphia district.

Sweeney conceded the contest shortly before Durr's appearance at Gloucester County Republican headquarters.

"I of course accept the results. I want to congratulate Mr. Durr and wish him the best of luck," Sweeney said during a speech at the statehouse complex Wednesday.

Sweeney said his loss to Durr was the result of overwhelming GOP turnout in his suburban, politically split district. Sweeney lost by about 2,000 votes after spending about $305,000 on his campaign.

SEE ALSO: New Jersey GOP newcomer Ed Durr under fire for past social media posts

"It was a red wave," Sweeney said.

Durr said the victory stemmed from voters upset with Murphy's COVID-19 mask mandate in schools and the early-pandemic lockdown.

He said the "secret" to his win came down to two words: "Phil Murphy."

"'The voters have spoken," Durr said. "They don't want government rule by a dangerous guy armed with a bunch of executive orders."

Murphy has called Durr, who's a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, dangerous as well.

Durr responded to tweets he had made previously that called Islam "a false religion," compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and defended rioters at the Capitol.

"You get behind the keyboard, you don't see a person and you don't consider the other person," Durr said. "I just wrote something that I don't mean to offend anybody."

On Wednesday night, Durr met with local Muslim leaders for hours to discuss his past actions.

"I stand against Islamophobia and all forms of hate and do commit to that," said Durr after the meeting.

As for what he was thinking when he posted the past tweets, he said he couldn't remember.

SEE ALSO: Longtime NJ Senate president loses to truck driver Ed Durr, dealing blow to Democrats

"I could not recall. I don't even remember what I had for dinner last week," said Durr.

He also alluded to the fact that he just didn't know enough about the faith.

"We got to get the sense of each other. I think that's the real key to everything. As long as you know someone it's hard to hate someone," said Durr.

Muslim leaders said progress was made.

"Hate speech is that which leads to violence and that has to end. That type of rhetoric cannot come from someone who has such a high responsibility," said Selaedin Maksut of CAIR New Jersey.

Sweeney said he won't be withdrawing from public life, although he stopped short of saying whether he would seek election to the Senate again or run for governor in 2025. He said he'll continue to focus on "the things that are important to the people of this state."

SEE ALSO: New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney concedes after last week's election

"What the voters said in this election is New Jersey is a state filled with hardworking people who want to provide for their families and as leaders we need to speak directly to the concerns of all voters," he said. "I plan to keep speaking to those concerns."

His loss unfolded in a politically competitive district that includes parts of Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties, which split their votes between Democrats and Republicans in the presidential elections in 2016 and again in 2020.

It also coincided with boosted GOP turnout in an off-year election that saw Republicans win across the state. Durr's victory, which The Associated Press declared Thursday, netted about 3% more votes than Sweeney did in 2017 in unofficial returns.

Durr will be sworn into office in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.