“It is the Howard Dean in me.”

Bumped – because it was torpedoed earlier by the Jeff Sessions breaking news.
Above, Howard Dean with old friend Phil Murphy last year at a Newark fundraiser. Photo: Mark Bonamo

Here’s Gov. Phil Murphy in a press conference a short while ago in Newark, crowing about local wins by Democrats, including some of the firsts of the groundbreaking elections, plus Democratic gains in crimson places where that’s a heavier lift he’s proud of. He clearly wants the Democratic Party to be all it can be here. I’m for that. And if we’re talking about a better party, let’s really talk.

I first met Murphy in 2006, at Linda Stender’s campaign kick-off in CD7, the seat Tom Malinowski won last night. Campaign HQ in Scotch Plains was crammed for a mass canvass about to roll. Stender came over, pointed to a tall WASP – an open-faced-sandwich of a man – and asked me to introduce myself. “You’re probably the only person here who knows who he is – that’s Phil Murphy.” Murphy was Howard Dean’s Finance Chair at DNC then –  the guy who got 50-State Strategy funded; the fight-for-every-vote-everywhere system brought us wins even in Hunterdon. I still have Phil Murphy’s DNC card. When he called me in for a chat long before declaring for Gov, Dean happened to call, a nice full loop.

Today, Murphy talked of wins “even in places where not very long ago no one would have thought it would be possible.” (4:48 in the video). He means not only easy blue races, but places where Dems need resources to win. This year, the Party invested in municipal races; maybe for the first time. Among those races Murphy shouts out, the Dem clean-sweep in Hunterdon’s county seat of Flemington, where I live. Murphy revisits Dean’s kind of party organizing again (17:30) – a “huge emphasis on the non-glamorous, non-headline stuff. Infrastructure.” YES. YES. 

I’m encouraged by any talk of any Dean-style beefing up of infrastructure; that’s a bonus of this governor as head of his party. But funding alone won’t do it. We have a party that lacks representational, transparent decision-making at the state level. Unaffiliateds outnumber both Ds & Rs in NJ. The majority of voters in this state may vote blue or red, but they don’t want to be part of either party. And if we’re asked what our Party stands for, we can talk only in generalizations, or about our own ideals. This party has no convention, or platform; we have not set down what we stand for. And how can we require better policies from our elected Democrats if we haven’t even told them what we expect of them? If Phil Murphy is serious about a better stronger party – and I think he is – I hope he invests himself in a party whose direction is set by all of us.

Comments (3)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    If Murphy is serious about changing the Democratic Party in NJ, and I don’t believe that he is, he should select a new state chair who is going to appoint people to the legislative redistricting commission who will draw a legislative district map that creates more competitive districts, not less, giving more voters a reason to come out and vote.

    He also needs to stand up to the legislative leadership in Trenton and use his gubernatorial muscle to get them to elect new leaders that share his vision instead of being loyal to George Norcross.

    He needs to prove that he means business by recruiting people to run against disloyal incumbent Assemblypersons next year and threaten to do the same to both disloyal Assemblypersons and Senators when he runs for re-election in 2021.

    But who am I kidding? He isn’t going to do anything like that. He is probably not even going to be in office by this time next year once the legislature finishes investigating his transition team’s litany of bad hires, including but not limited to Al Alvarez.

    There is no way that Murphy will be able to continue as Governor once the breadth and depth of his inaction on that matter in particular is exposed.

    Hopefully, they don’t discover anything that proves that Sheila Oliver was aware of what happened and did nothing about it either or we could be stuck with an Acting Governor Sweeney for the foreseeable future.

    1. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      Not going to fight with ya, Bertin. I find it more valuable where possible to find opportunities in common for growth and change, to take openings when I see them. I don’t see the point in spitting in everybody’s direction all the time. We can disagree on whether Murphy has any serious intention of leading some party change; I don’t see a reason to disbelieve him at all.

      And not for nothing, but I really don’t see the Al Alvarez investigation as a career-ending thing for Murphy to the degree you suggest – that he’ll be out of office by next year. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Good people are running the special legislative committee looking into it.

      1. Bertin Lefkovic

        The good people who are running the special legislative committee looking into this are taking their marching orders from Coughlin, Sweeney, and Norcross. They are going to take Murphy down and rightly so.

        The only downside is that unless Oliver comes out of the investigation unscathed herself, Norcross and Sweeney are going to be the beneficiaries of their lack of leadership.


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