Surprise NJ Senate winner says sorry amid scrutiny of posts

Politics

Edward Durr speaks to near his home in Swedesboro, N.J. on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. New Jersey’s longtime state Senate president, Democrat Steve Sweeney lost reelection, falling to Durr, a Republican newcomer who spent little money and underscoring Democratic woes in the Biden era. (Ellie Rushing/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A truck driver who ousted the powerful New Jersey Senate president in the election previously posted online calling Islam “a false religion,” comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and defending rioters at the Capitol.

Republican Edward Durr apologized on Friday after media outlets highlighted the posts. His victory over Steve Sweeney, widely regarded as the second-most powerful Democrat in state government, in Tuesday’s electionshocked the state’s political establishment. Durr spent a paltry sum on his campaign.

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.”

Twitter showed Friday that Durr’s account had been deactivated by the user.

In a screenshot of a 2019 Twitter post captured by a WNYC reporter, Durr wrote, “Mohammed was a pedophile! Islam is a false religion! Only fools follow Muslim teachings! It is a cult of hate!”

“I support everybody’s right to worship in any manner they choose and to worship the God of their choice,” Durr said in his statement to the media outlets. “I support all people and I support everybody’s rights. That’s what I am here to do, work for the people and support their rights.”

Durr did not respond to phone and email messages from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday. A spokesperson for New Jersey Senate Republicans declined comment Friday, referring a reporter to Durr’s statement.

Also on Friday, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations called on Durr to meet with Muslim leaders and renounce hate.

In other posts, Durr seemed to equate not opposing COVID-19 vaccination mandates to remaining silent during the Holocaust, including with the post a photo of a yellow star that the National Socialist party forced Jewish people to wear.

He also said on Facebook that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was not an insurrection but “an unauthorized entry by undocumented federal employers.”

Durr’s Facebook posts show he closely followed and posted in support of former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about election fraud. On Jan. 7, he wrote on Facebook, “I do not agree or support the entering of the Capitol! But I was not surprised after courts refuse to do their job!”

He also boasted last year of defying New Jersey’s indoor mask requirements while visiting stores, and appeared to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic.

Durr also used his Facebook account to highlight his campaign activities, posting photos of himself and others speaking with voters at their homes. He conveyed holiday wishes, posted about his dogs and wrote about his successes trying to eat more healthily.

Durr, a commercial truck driver, defeated Sweeney in southern New Jersey’s 3rd district, spending just $2,300 on his campaign. He was largely unknown in state politics before Election Day.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who narrowly won a second term over Republican Jack Ciattarelli, called Durr’s posts “outrageous” during a public event Friday. He said he was “stunned” over Sweeney’s loss.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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