Apparently it’s not too early to discuss gubernatorial prospects. We already know a lot about Senate President Steve Sweeney and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. Other legislators who might throw their hat in the ring are probably less well known but have a NJ record on which to hang that hat.
How about Democrat Philip Murphy? Personally I don’t yet have any idea as to whether I will support him, but I am more than willing to listen. He has been laying the groundwork to run and has the money to self-finance, so de facto he is in play and subject to scrutiny.
We should not just write him off as another rich man, a carpet-bagger, too like former governor Corzine, or someone who has never held elected office. It might be refreshing to have a governor who appears genuinely concerned about the middle class and has no need to obtain money from political bosses, corporations, and wealthy donors. Murphy does have experience in business (a former Goldman Sachs director), diplomacy (Ambassador to Germany), philanthropy (several New Jersey non-profits), civic engagement (on the board of the NAACP’s Special Contribution Fund) and national politics (former finance Chair for the Democratic National Committee.) In addition he chaired the New Jersey Benefits Task Force in 2005 and co-chaired Renewing our Schools, Securing our Future.
A former Blue Jersey diarist dismissed Murphy as just another “richy-rich” man. However, let’s not forget that since 1981 there have been only two non-millionaire governors elected in NJ – Jim Florio and Jim McGreevey. In 2009 the race was between the very wealthy Jon Corzine and Chris Christie whose net worth at the time was estimated at $3.8 million. A 2015 estimate of Chris Christie’s net worth is $5 million – not enough to self-finance a gubernatorial race but more than enough to enjoy a standard of living well above the middle class, and one further enhanced by perks and gifts.
One question to be asked about candidates is not how wealthy they are, but are they genuinely committed to strengthening the middle class and helping those less fortunate. In January this year Murphy teamed with the Center for American Progress to present A Policy Agenda for Strengthening New Jersey’s Middle Class, with recommendations from earned sick leave to improvements to the minimum wage.
By May of last year he had hired political consultants and was making the rounds with influential Democrats saying, “We’ve not made a decision, but we’re very serious.” In August he went to Israel where he met with former President Shimon Peres. In September the Auditor reported during that quarter he had given five-figure checks to several county parties. By November the press called him a “presumed gubernatorial candidate” when he held a forum to launch his non-profit advocacy group New Start New Jersey as a platform to get out his message. Its website currently has a focus on rebuilding our middle class. The forum was attended by such luminaries as Jon Bon Jovi and former Govs. Tom Kean and Brendan Byrne. His stable of political consultants now includes Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky, and message men Brad Lawrence and Steve DeMico. Most recently he added Essex County freeholder Brendan Gill who has worked for Senators Booker and Lautenberg.
About Jon Corzine, he says, “I’ve known him for 30 years. He’s a friend. But I’m not Jon.”
There is still much more to learn about him. However, let’s give love, peace and Phil Murphy a chance.