How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Thoughts on Murphy

It appears that Phil Murphy has managed to emerge as the front-runner to be our state's next Governor.  Patrick Murray, the Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, was quoted in The Times as saying Senate President "Sweeney's decision [to step out of the race] pretty much seals the deal for Murphy.  Let's just flip our calendars to November 2017."

From the little I know about Phil Murphy, he's no Donald Trump and in fact has some very positive attributes.  The problem is that this political junkie knows very little about Phil Murphy.  What I know about him comes from seeing his spots on television and listening to the recorded messages left by him on my phone telling me we need a governor we can trust to fight for Democratic values.  I know he worked at Goldman Sachs and was a former Ambassador to Germany.

The centerpiece of his campaign so far is a proposal to create a state-owned public bank that would allow college students, small businesses and local government to borrow at lower rates than from commercial institutions.  Apparently a statewide investment bank has been functioning in North Dakota for many years and has generated millions in profits for the state's general fund.  Sounds like something worthy of exploring, but it's not going to solve our state's pension crisis.

Before Jon Corzine, I probably would have seen executive experience with Goldman Sachs as a good thing.  After Corzine, I see it as a negative.  As far as serving as Ambassador to Germany, I'm neutral because I recognize that most ambassadors get their posts because of their financial support of the Party, not necessarily because of their ability.  Murphy, who served from 2006 to 2009 as National Finance Chair of the Democratic Party, has given more than $1.5 million to Democratic candidates.

Murphy has loaned his campaign $10 million and invested $5 million in two groups he formed - one clearly political and the other a nonprofit.  The mega-wealthy Murphy has been heavily greasing the wheels of New Jersey's Democratic Party infrastructure.  Through the end of  2015, the has given $91k to the Democratic State Committee, $79k to the Middlesex County Democrats, $63k to Bergen County, $62k to Passaic, and $25k to Mercer.  Seven other county committees have received Murphy money.

It is disconcerting to me that Murphy was anointed by the party bosses - many of whom sandbagged the candidacy of Barbara Buono and gave us Chris Christie's pitiful second term.  Unlike Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, who indicated recently that his endorsement of Murphy was "based on the longevity of conversations, critical conservations about the capital city and what is good for New Jersey," I and most of my fellow New Jerseyans know very little about where he stands on the key issues facing our state or how he compares on the issues with the other announced or potential candidates. 

Murphy didn't lock-up the endorsement of the party chairs because the majority of them are committed to Eric Jackson's vision of "moving Trenton forward and making it a "shining light" in the state."  Murphy was picked by the party chairs to be our next Governor for three reasons: money is the mother's milk of politics, it was revealed at the Bridgegate trial that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop was not the squeaky- clean reformer he projected and when push comes to shove a bird-in-the-hand is worth two-in-the-bush when if comes to high-stakes political horse-trading.  I have little doubt that Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Pieto will be rewarded for their fidelity.

What we have witnessed with the attempted coronation of Phil Murphy is old-fashioned old boy party politics.  I get it.  In fact, it has it place.  I have, no problem with strong party organization, giving candidates endorsed by their committee people, the county line on the ballot.  Further, I have no problem with the county chairs and elected officials lobbying for a particular candidate getting the line.  I do have a problem with backroom machinations that try and make primaries a waste of time.  I think robust contested informational primaries are important opportunities to access candidates and test new ideas.

Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski in declaring his candidacy for Governor suggested that the endorsement of Murphy by 11 county chairs, before any Democratic candidates had declared their candidacy, was akin to what had occurred in the Democratic National Committee in order to thwart the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.  Wisniewski chaired the Sanders campaign in New Jersey.  It is not surprising that Sanders indicated that he "may very well" support Wisniewski's candidacy. 

A Wisniewski vs. Murphy primary could get a lot of attention nationwide as it could foreshadow a future show-down in the Democratic Party between two-strains of progressive Democrats.  If the election of Donald Trump has taught us anything it is that voters have no abiding affinity towards the politics of moderation.  Here's hoping for issue-orientated primary in which the candidates treated each other with dignity and respect and provide rank-and-file Democrats with a clear sense of how they will address our state's most pressing problems.