Since I know there are a fair number number of New Jerseyans on GroupThink as well as others who might be interested in this....
Upfront disclosure: I’ve been regularly volunteering for Jim Johnson for reasons I’ll go into below, so I’m not exactly neutral. But I’m going to try to lay out my reasons for going with Johnson and not the other guys I’m curious to hear about where other people are leaning.
Long post ahoy...
So guys, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s going to be a governor’s race in November in New Jersey. It’s going to be one of only two races for governor happening in 2017, which means there is probably going to be a fair amount of national attention. (The other being Virginia, which has attracted much more interest so far.) This prospect is disconcerting for New Jerseyans because in recent memory, national attention on our state politics has meant that our officials have just been caught in some sort of humiliatingly transparent wannabe Sopranos act of political corruption, like a fucking bridge closure.
Speaking of bridge closures, whatever happens in November....Christie’s out!
I’m gonna be honest, I’m a little sad that he isn’t legally allowed to run for a third term, because I would have liked to have witnessed that bloodbath.
But alas, he appears to be heading to the White House and not the Jail House, because if we’ve learned nothing else from 2016, its that bad people don’t get punished the way they deserve.
Anyway, who are the people running to replace him?
There’s a wide roster of both Republicans and Democrats, but I’m going to just focus on the top 3 Democrats, because A. I’m a Democrat and that’s the primary I’ll be voting in and B. New Jersey is a blue state with an overwhelmingly hated Republic governor. I’m fairly convinced that this is the Democrats’ race to lose. When you couple this dynamic with the fact that the country will be looking to New Jersey and Virginia for signs of a resurgent Democratic party, it’s incumbent not just that a Democrat wins, but that it’s the best possible Democrat we can field.
PS. If you are a NJ Democrat, the Primary Election is is June 6th, so don’t forget to vote!!! (Sadly, it’s a closed primary, so you do have to be a registered Democrat.)
Phil Murphy is the front runner for the democratic nomination. In terms of his positions, he’s fine. He says all the right progressive things and if I end up having to cast my vote for him, I’ll be fine doing that. I won’t be thrilled, but I’ll do it.
Here’s the thing about Murphy: he’s a former Goldman Sachs guy with no real government experience. He was Obama’s ambassador to Germany and then he spent several years as a Democratic Party functionary.
1.I’m actually not inherently against bankers, but Goldman Sachs is...just not a good look for Democrats right now, not at the national level if we want to set ourselves up as a true alternative to the Republicans. This is especially true in New Jersey, where our last Democratic Governor, Jon Corzine, was also a Goldman Sachs guy who managed to destroy all of his support and lose horribly to Christie.
2. Most of Murphy’s lead is probably attributable to the fact that he got into the race absurdly early and has spent months glad handing the party machine. ( I remember getting a ton of voicemails for him last October and thinking A. I have no idea who the hell this guy is and B. literally cannot begin to think about the NJ election until after November 8th.) NJ is a state with politics that is heavily influenced by local party bosses and Murphy has clearly invested a lot of time in courting them.
3. Whereas the other 2 candidates have committed to public funding and have taken very strong anti-corruption stances, Murphy doesn’t seem to have a problem throwing his money around. There’s been a real rash of direct mailers and ads against his opponents and he’s also been very publicly spending a lot of time with lobbyists. (Again, none of these things are necessarily damning by themselves, but they make me very uncomfortable, especially in the current political climate.)
John Wisiniewski is probably Murphy’s top challenger, despite having a name that’s nearly impossible to remember how to spell.
He’s a long time Democratic State Senator and also led the investigation into the Bridgegate Scandal. (A fact he pushes to an almost amusing degree.) I saw him speak recently and I have to admit, I was really impressed in spite of myself. He’s been in NJ politics long enough to know the system and he has really solid progressive credentials. If he were to get the nomination, I wouldn’t have any problems enthusiastically supporting him.
That said, the hunger for an outsider candidate remains real, and John has been in Trenton for YEARS.
And finally there is Jim Johnson. Johnson is admittedly, a serious long shot candidate, but he’s been rapidly building a base of grassroots support, while steadily increasingly his name recognition, so I wouldn’t actually count him out just yet. He’s also been attracting a ton of veteran organizers from around the country.
While Johnson has never held elected office, he’s been in and around government for years. He was Undersecretary for the Treasury in the Clinton Administration, where he also worked on gun control issues among other things. He led the Brennan Center for Justice in New York for a number of years, which is a super effective lefty organization, where he worked on civil rights issues, economic justice and other fun progressive causes. He’s also got experience leading regional task forces on affordable housing and police community relations.
My personal favorite fact about him? He’s married to Nancy Northrup, who is the badass head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global reproductive health organization.
As I think I’ve made it clear on this site, I’m a progressive with generally moderate instincts. In other words, I tend to be somewhat suspicious of “outsidery, burn the system down” types of politicians because I just don’t think you can be effective until you know what it is you are trying to reform.
But I’m clearly in the minority there and I’m also increasingly sympathetic to the push for change, so I’m trying something new for myself. In New Jersey in particular, state politics is such a corrupt entrenched machine, that perhaps an outsider is what’s called for right now. I also think that Johnson is particularly well placed to harness the resurgent wave of grassroots progressive energy in NJ.
If I’m going to support an outsider candidate, Johnson is exactly the kind of guy I can get behind. He’s a solid progressive whose been around government long enough to be familiar with how to run things, even if he hasn’t been in the NJ government directly. He’s also ridiculously level headed and places a value on consensus building as much as he does on systemic reform. Also, as a former Treasury Undersecretary, he knows economics and budgets, which is kind of key for NJ right now, considering our deficits.
There are a bunch more candidates running on the Democratic side, but those are the three who I would judge to be the front runners.
Now your turn. Tell me your thoughts on the NJ Primary. Am I too biased against Murphy? Is there something else I missed?
And remember, don’t forget to vote June 6th!!!