Two ‘outsiders’ on opposite ends of political spectrum enter New Jersey governor’s race

By: - June 17, 2024 8:47 pm

Democrat Sean Spiller, left, and Republican Bill Spadea have announced they are running for governor in 2025. (Spadea photo courtesy of Hal Brown, Spiller photo courtesy of the New Jersey Governor’s Office)

A mayor and a radio talk show host from opposite sides of the aisle have entered the 2025 gubernatorial race painting themselves as outsiders who want to shake up Trenton.

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

Dan Cassino, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, noted that the attacks on Trenton from Spadea and Spiller suggest they’re positioning themselves as the alternative to the state’s existing power structures.

“This looks very much like candidates on both sides looking to represent the views of the more ideologically oriented wings of their parties against the institutional power structures that both progressive Democrats and MAGA-oriented Republicans see as sellouts who don’t represent their views,” said Cassino.

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

“This is our chance for that worker who’s got to work those extra shifts. This is our chance for that small business owner just barely getting by. This is our chance for all of us,” he said in a video announcing his candidacy. 

Spiller’s union is one of Murphy’s biggest political backers and is influential in helping shape 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 Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, and former state Sen. Steve Sweeney. More candidates are expected to jump in the race next year.

On the Republican side, Spadea is one of five declared candidates. State Sen. Jon Bramnick, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, former state Sen. Ed Durr, and real estate broker Robert Canfield all hope to get a chance to flip control of the governor’s office. Ciattarelli came close to unseating Murphy in 2021.

Spadea’s announcement video highlights his current gig as a 101.5 host, saying he hears from callers complaining about taxes, spending, borrowing, inflation, and the “radical liberal nonsense our kids are taught in school,” a line spoken over video of a drag queen reading to children.

Spadea also highlights immigration, though in a much different way than Spiller (Spiller is a son of immigrants, he noted in his own video). Spadea accuses Trenton politicians of opening “the floodgates for illegals getting handouts on your dime.”

“If you’re OK with more of the same, the other Republicans running for governor will give you exactly that,” he said. “I’m running for the people who are sick and tired of expecting little from the politicians we elect, and getting even less.”

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting. You can reach her at [email protected].

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