NEWARK -- Phil Murphy claimed the 2017 Democratic nomination for governor in Newark on primary night, while Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who defeated Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli in the Republican primary. Murphy and Guadagno will face each other in the November general election.
Locally, Councilman Russ Huegel and newcomer Anthony Carter ran unopposed on the Democratic slate for the two contested seats on the Fanwood Borough Council in November. Brian Walter was the only Republican candidate in Fanwood.
Murphy won convincingly over his rivals. A retired Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, the candidate won over 48 percent of the vote. Jim Johnson, an attorney from Montclair and an under secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration, and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) both hovered at around 21 percent. Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) received around five percent of the vote. Murphy
Murphy promised to both boost New Jersey and challenge President Donald Trump during his victory speech.
"I reject completely the us versus them leadership that defines Chris Christie and Donald Trump," Murphy told a crowd of more than 1,200 people at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark on Tuesday night. "The lesson I've learned is this: it's not what you take, it's what you give back."
Meanwhile, Kim Guadagno said she would fight for Main Street values as governor and pledged to cut property taxes in her first term – or she will not seek a second term. She has distanced herself from current Governor Chris Christie throughout the campaign.
"Let’s choose to believe in a better future with policies and actions that make New Jersey more affordable," Guadagno tweeted. "Here’s my pledge to the people of NJ: If we don’t lower property taxes during my first term as governor, then I won’t stand for re-election."
Kim Guadagno's plans are to make New Jersey more military and veteran friendly, fix pension and health benefits, cut property taxes, audit Trenton, improve education, and grow "Jersey Jobs."
"The choice this November is crystal clear. Let's not go backwards to the days of Goldman Sachs and Jon Corzine," Guadagno wrote, taking aim at wealth former Governor Jon Cozine. "We need a governor who’ll put people before profits, Main Street before Wall Street and what's best for NJ families ahead of special interests. If we elect @PhilMurphyNJ to be governor then the only person who will be able to afford to live in New Jersey will be Phil Murphy."
Murphy launched his campaign early, in May 2016, campaigning in the state's largest city well before potential rivals, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop or state Senate President Steve Sweeney, had an opportunity to jump into the race. Fulop and Sweeney unexpectedly withdrew their names from gubernatorial contention by October, which cleared a path for Murphy among party insiders, who closed ranks around the candidate last fall on the steps in front of the Essex County Historic Courthouse in Newark.
Many of Murphy's prominent early supporters, including former Newark Mayor Sharpe James and Sen. Richard Codey, a former governor and senate president, were visible in the crowd Tuesday night.
While the treasure trove of Democratic votes in cities such as Newark play a key role in party primaries, many voters in big cities often feel abandoned as candidates reorient their policy platforms away from urban issues such as the high rate of home foreclosure and criminal justice reform. Instead, core suburban concerns such as fixing public train transit problems, fully funding suburban schools and reducing property taxes tend to come to the fore.
Murphy has stated that he will not shift too far from urban concerns in the months to come, noting that he points out issues such as the white/non-white gap in prisoners incarcerated in the criminal justice system when he campaigns in suburban communities. He ran off a litany of progressive policies during his speech that he said he would support if he wind the Statehouse, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, restoring the millionaires' tax, legalizing marijuana beyond medical use, and improving infrastructure.
He also pushed back against claims that his Wall Street past puts him out of touch with middle-class New Jerseyans, saying that he will "close loopholes that only benefit Wall Street money managers" if elected governor of the Garden State.
The Robert Treat Hotel is no stranger to presidential politics. President John F. Kennedy stayed in the hotel during his 1960 campaign, with his face etched in bronze by the hotel's front door in memory of his visit. Murphy, who grew up outside Boston, hearkened back to Kennedy's call to make a difference as he stood in the vortex of state and national politics on the hotel stage.
The eyes of national political observers have been locked in on New Jersey and Virginia, whose closely-watched gubernatorial contests are seen as referendums on Trump.