The inauguration was dominated by fun stories (such as Christie being the first NJ governor in decades to leave office without breaking a leg) way-too-early not helpful stories (such as the rumors that Murphy is eyeing the presidency because he swore on the JFK bible) and really important stories (the coverage of his first executive order, helping ensure equal wages for women). Through the weekend, I had a chance to attend both the Kids Inaugural (held blocks from my house at the Camden aquarium) and the Inaugural Ball at MetLife Stadium. I wanted to empty my notebook and share some of my observations from those events that aren’t quite newsworthy, but I found interesting throughout the weekend.
- South Jersey Democrats are sending Murphy mixed signals. Everyone played nice at the aquarium event, and prominent South Jersey Dems were featured at the equal wages event — though rumors were flying that Sweeney was hesitant to speak publicly for the bill. And I didn’t see many SJ familiar faces at the Inaugural Ball. They might have been in the VIP room — but they certainly weren’t visible through the party or visibly celebrating. The mixed signals during the inauguration matched some of the mixed signals coming from SJ Dems in the lame duck session. InsiderNJ captures the heart of it talking about last minute appointments:
“This is unheard of,” a legislative source told InsiderNJ. “This is a Democratic senate working with a Republican governor to undo the will of an incoming Democratic governor. Murphy doesn’t know what hit him.”
- Tammy Murphy was quite compelling in talking about how she pushed for the inauguration weekend to be more accessible and include more events throughout the region. She headed the inauguration committee, the governor’s first executive order was focused on addressing the wage gap, and #MeToo remains a mainstay in the headlines. It feels like Tammy is going to play a large role in this administration early.
- There was palpable relief at the Inauguration Ball (here are some great pics from NJ.com) at finally being rid of Christie, and quite a bit of excitement about Murphy. What there wasn’t was any type of younger or millennial energy. I think it speaks to how complex of a candidate Murphy is — he’s progressive, but hasn’t captured the movement in a way that’s engaged younger voters. He’s made nice with the current democratic party, but still faces resistance within pockets of it. Part of that may be because the event was expensive, but when young, energized progressives are deeply involved in an event like this it shines through — the Working Family Gala in December was a sharp contrast, young folks were jamming out on the dance floor late in the night. The food and drink at the Inauguration Ball felt similarly lacking — it was good, but where were the local distilleries or breweries? One of the saddest parts of New Jersey politics is that candidates like Murphy — who might have captured the zeitgeist of young folks eager for a progressive voice — gets lost in the backroom primary. You could feel that a bit over the weekend, and it will be interesting to see if the progressive early focus of Murphy’s administration starts to change that dynamic.