(NEW YORK) — A political newcomer who beat New Jersey’s veteran state senate president in a surprise election upset met with a local Islamic group Wednesday after apologizing for a previous anti-Muslim tweet.
Edward Durr, a commercial truck driver, beat Stephen Sweeney in the state senate race for New Jersey’s 3rd Legislative District.
Soon after his victory, Durr came under fire for past social media posts, including a 2019 tweet where he called the prophet Mohammed a “pedophile” and Islam a “cult of hate.”
ABC News station WPVI-TV also uncovered statements from Durr comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. Durr has since deleted some of his social media pages.
“I’m a passionate guy and I sometimes say things in the heat of the moment. If I said things in the past that hurt anybody’s feelings, I sincerely apologize,” Durr said last Friday, according to WPVI. “I support everybody’s right to worship in any manner they choose and to worship the God of their choice. I support all people and I support everybody’s rights.”
After his election victory, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy and civil rights organization, condemned his tweet but invited Durr to meet with the organization’s local chapter.
Durr accepted the group’s offer and met with CAIR-NJ members. WPVI-TV reported that Durr’s meeting with local Islamic leaders at Al-Minhaal Academy in Sewell lasted nearly two hours.
“I think we had a very productive conversation and I think it’s going to be one of hopefully many,” CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said in a joint appearance with Durr on Wednesday.
“I stand against Islamophobia and all forms of hate and I do commit to that,” Durr said at the media appearance.
“Our New Jersey chapter had a productive meeting with State Senator #EdDurr. He expressed commitment to opposing #Islamophobia. We welcome this outcome and hope to have more productive dialogues in the future,” the national CAIR tweeted later.
Jacci Vigilante, Gloucester County GOP chair, defended Durr last Friday, saying, “Ed is a passionate guy. He was a little bit of a keyboard warrior at the time. Certainly he’s made an apology. He didn’t intend to offend anyone’s religion and certainly believes that everyone has the right to practice their religion of their choice.”
Sweeney, Durr’s opponent, was the longest-serving state senate president in New Jersey history. He did not concede the race until Wednesday.
“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, according to local news reports. “It was a red wave,” he added.
ABC News’ Rick Klein contributed to this report.
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