EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - East Brunswick's Jeff Winston wanted to know what Democratic front-running gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy thought New Jersey would look like in 8 years if Murphy were elected. EB's Margaret Scott was interested in Murphy's ideas about improving transportation to New York City. EBHS student David Portnoy wanted to know how college could be more affordable. Last night at the Estate on the Lake, Ambassador Phil Murphy came to answer those questions and others at his 38th and final town hall meeting before the state primary elections on June 6.
Over 200 people came to the event which was hosted by the East Brunswick Democratic Organization and streamed live on Facebook to hear businessman/ambassador/optimist Murphy tell the people who he is, what he has done, what he thinks, and why they should vote for him in June.
East Brunswick's Mayor Brad Cohen welcomed the candidate to "The Center of New Jersey," noting that a "big, dark cloud has hung over New Jersey for the past 8 years," in a reference to current Governor Chris Christie. Cohen introduced Murphy to the enthusiastic crowd who greeted Murphy with loud applause and good humor.
After thanking his hosts, various dignitaries, and his family, Murphy, who is endorsed in all 21counties by the Democratic Party, told the tale of why he was running in what he considers "the most consequential election in the history of New Jersey." Citing statistics, Murphy said that there are only 16 Democratic governors in America, with only 2 races in contention this year. "I am #1 up to bat against the Trump presidency, " he said. "What do we need to do? We need to start winning elections again."
After giving a synopsis of his career in college, business, philanthropy, and politics, Murphy spoke about the need to "grow the economy" and to make it "fair again." He quoted Democratic icon Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said, "We are all entitled to our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts," in a reference to both Governor Christie's and President Trump's recent policies.
Murphy moved on to address the need to build both a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) economy based on innovation and an infrastructure economy that takes advantage ouf New Jersey's location. We should be "environmental stewards who create jobs."
"We need to make it fair again" to live and work in New Jersey, said Murphy, who asserted his belief in equal pay for equal work. "A white woman makes 80 cents on the dollar as compared to a man; African-American women make 60 cents; and Latina women make 50 cents."
"Let's get back to being the state we used to be, " said Murphy, as he reminisced about the prior regard in which New Jersey was held both nationally and internationally. "I've heard what they say behind our backs," said the candidate. "We were civil. We didn't tell people to 'shut up and sit down.'" He also noted his support for funding Planned Parenthood; sensible gun laws; comprehensive criminal justice reform; and dealing with climate change.
Murphy's "Bold Idea" was the creation of a Public Bank in New Jersey. (See attached video.) The Public Bank would help to address issues around college loans and pension safety and reform.
"We are in a crisis because of a failure of leadership," said Murphy. "I want to be the governor that makes decisions about what's best for the next generation in our state." "New Jersey is the #1 export state - our kids don't come home after college. I am an optimist. I want them to come back to New Jersey."
Then came the questions from the floor, and the responses that mostly drew support from the crowd:
- "I stand with Planned Parenthood. We are fighting Christie and the Republican leadership in our country. We need to knock out Congressional Representatives MacArthur and Frelinghuysen. Make them pay for voting for Trumpcare."
- "I support the use of union labor for our state's infrastructure repair. I resent the demonization of the notion that you should hire good union labor. I am proud to have the support of the Carpenters' Union."
- "We need to get back to fully-funding the pensions and defend the middle class at all costs. The abuse of the pension fund is the central point that makes us a state that people don't trust. I am endorsed by the NJEA (New Jersey Education Association.) Enough of the name-calling. We need to change the tone."
- "I believe in pay equity. In Massachusetts, it is illegal to ask 'What are you earning at your current job?' at an interview. I think that should be illegal here, too."
- "I am not a fan of PARCC and other high-stakes tests. I would like to see a lower-stakes environment with shorter feedback loops. PARCC should not be a graduation requirement."
- "College costs have gone beyond the point of proportionality and reasonableness of debt. A Public Bank would provide student loans at reasonable rates. I would like to see free community colleges. STEM majors who work in STEM in New Jersey could qualify for college loan forgiveness."
- "I support the development of offshore wind energy and a clean energy economy."
- "I want to see the construction of the Gateway Tunnel into Manhattan. We need to improve rail travel into and out of New York City. The state funding for our rail system has been cut by 90%."
The final question "What will New Jersey look like in 8 years if you are the Governor?" got this response from Murphy: "I want New Jersey to be trusted, respected, responsible, and smart. I want good government with a fair economy. I want to move to clean energy. I want organized labor to be respected."