In a last minute push to solidify his political base, Phil Murphy, the leading candidate in the Democratic primary for governor (the election will be held June 6), brought his road show to Jersey City and North Bergen this week, picking up endorsements from several unions and the enthusiastic support of nearly all the local Democratic leaders.
The endorsements came not far from the Jersey City waterfront headquarters of investment bank Goldman Sachs, where Murphy served as an executive, a fact that has raised perhaps unfair comparisons to former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who also served as an executive for the bank.
In a rally at the Hyatt Hotel, Murphy told union workers that he would represent everyone if elected governor, including the state’s neediest, most underpaid, and those threatened by deportation.
“If I could get President Donald Trump into this room, I would tell him this is what America looks like.” – Phil Murphy
Murphy is considered the leading Democratic front runner in a primary that includes Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, State Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak and former U.S. Treasury official Jim Johnson. Murphy reserved his criticism for outgoing Gov. Christopher Christie and recently-elected President Donald Trump rather than his primary challengers or even GOP front runner Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, all Republicans.
“If I could get President Donald Trump into this room, I would tell him this is what America looks like,” Murphy said, spreading his hands to indicate a room filled with ethnically diverse workers, many of whom cheered each of his positions on bail reform, healthcare and protection of immigrants.
Murphy said he would reduce criminal penalties for non-violent criminal offenses and would legalize marijuana use in the state.
Each talking point increased the cheers from union workers waving banners in a frenzy of support. Their leaders have not only endorsed Murphy but have promised to work polls and help campaign to make sure the Murphy is elected.
Murphy predicts Trump threat to unions
Murphy touched on all the key issues of the Democratic platform in Jersey City, before a final rally scheduled for Schuetzen Park in North Bergen on May 25 where mayors, legislators and others associated with the Hudson County Democratic Organization were expected to come together to push party workers to work hard for Murphy in the primary and again in the general election if Murphy wins the nomination.
In Jersey City, Murphy talked about the level of threat the current GOP administration in Washington DC posed to working and poor people.
“While this hasn’t come yet, we expect the Trump administration to begin a war on unions shortly,” he said. This is something that as governor, he would oppose, as well as threats to healthcare and other basic rights. “I will stand up and say ‘Not in New Jersey’.”
Although Murphy has received endorsements from other unions and political leaders throughout the state, endorsements by unions and elected leaders in the Democratic stronghold of Hudson County are considered vital for Murphy to win the nomination.
Leading candidates both have baggage
Although Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was an early supporter of Murphy, many other Democrats in Hudson County did not support him until after Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop dropped out of the race last October. Since then, there has been a groundswell of support from unions and others throughout the state, making him the candidate to beat in the primary.
But Democratic opponents have frequently compared him to the unpopular Corzine, who lost to Christie in 2009. Unlike Corzine, who was a U.S. Senator before becoming governor, Murphy has not served in elective office, but was President Obama’s ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013.
Guadagno, who currently has a moderate lead in polls over other GOP candidates, will likely become Murphy’s opponent, and may well give voters the choice between two uninspiring candidates.
Guadagno is saddled with the record of the extremely unpopular Gov. Christie.
Wisniewski, who is running against Murphy, has accused Murphy of being a candidate supported by the state’ political bosses.
Wisniewski, along with other Democratic candidates for governor, Lesniak and Johnson, has been extremely critical of the very thing Murphy is trying to embrace: powerful support from the political machine.
Last December, state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack brought Murphy to a rally of the Brian Stack Civic Association, which along with his endorsement will likely guarantee Murphy a vote plurality out of Union City of as many as 10,000 votes. The endorsement of state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco promises a similar vote out of North Bergen.
The May 25 rally in Schuetzen Park was designed as much to remind voters about what is expected of them in the primary.
A release issued by Stack said, “Supporters are encouraged to attend to further the efforts in ‘getting out the vote’ and encouraging others to exercise their rights and let their voices be heard at the polls.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.