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Two “outsiders” at opposite ends of the political spectrum enter the race for governor in New Jersey

A mayor and a radio talk show host from opposing camps have entered the 2025 gubernatorial race, portraying themselves as outsiders looking to shake up Trenton.

Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller joined the increasingly crowded field for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on Friday, and New Jersey101.5 resident Bill Spadea became the youngest Republican in the race on Monday. Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat whose current term ends in January 2026, is barred from seeking a third consecutive term.

Dan Cassino, a Professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University, noted that Spadea and Spiller's attacks on Trenton suggest that they are positioning themselves as an alternative to the state's existing power structures.

“It looks like candidates on both sides are trying to represent the views of the more ideologically oriented wings of their parties against the institutional power structures that view both progressive Democrats and MAGA-oriented Republicans as sell-outs who don't represent their views,” Cassino said.

Spiller, a high school science teacher and president of the statewide New Jersey Education Association, said he wants new voices in Trenton rather than more millionaires, lawyers and Wall Street executives.

“This is our opportunity for the workers who have to work those extra shifts. This is our opportunity for the small business owners who are just getting by. This is our opportunity for all of us,” he said in a video announcing his candidacy.

Spiller's union is one of Murphy's biggest political backers and has a lot of influence in shaping the state's education policy. Spiller's term as mayor ends next month.

He is the fourth candidate to join the Democratic gubernatorial race, behind the mayor of Newark. Ras BarakaMayor of Jersey City Steve Fulopand former state senator. Steve SweeneyMore candidates are expected to enter the race next year.

On the Republican side, Spadea is one of five declared candidates. State Senator: Jon Bramnickformer MP Jack Ciattarelli, former state senator. Ed Duerrand real estate broker Robert Canfield are all hoping for a chance to take control of the governor's office. Ciattarelli came close to ousting Murphy in 2021.

Spadea's announcement video is about his current job as host of 101.5. He says callers complain about taxes, government spending, loans, inflation and the “radical liberal nonsense our kids learn in school,” delivered over a video of a drag queen reading to children.

Spadea also addresses immigration, but in a very different way than Spiller (Spiller is the son of immigrants, as he noted in his own video). Spadea accuses politicians in Trenton of “opening the floodgates for illegals to get handouts at their expense.”

“If you're OK with business as usual, the other Republicans running for governor will give you just that,” he said. “I'm running for the people who are tired of expecting little and getting even less from the politicians we elect.”

Anna Harden

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