SOMADEMS featured Democratic gubernatorial candidates Phil Murphy and Bill Brennan on Tuesday night for the group’s third and final Meet the Governor Candidates Forum, held at The Woodland in Maplewood.
“With only 42 days until the primary election, we need to have candidates stand up and tell us what they stand for,” said SOMADEMS’ President and Co-Founder Michael L. Minor.
“We are happy to be here to present these two candidates for governor of New Jersey for you to ask your questions and dare them not to answer you,” Minor said.
Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, told residents that he would pursue initiatives such as increasing the minimum wage, instituting earned sick leave for all, equal pay for equal work, making college more affordable, and tackling comprehensive criminal justice reform.
“We need to both grow the economy again and make this state fair again,” Murphy said. “With the right leadership and the right priorities, I believe we can.”
He added, “If we don’t get the economy right, we don’t get New Jersey right.”
Murphy, who lives in Monmouth County, has served on the board of the NAACP and was finance chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Brennan, a retired firefighter and longtime political activist from Wayne, outlined his vision for New Jersey, which includes good paying jobs, a vibrant economy, state of the art infrastructure, and a government with integrity.
Brennan, who earned a law degree from Seton Hall Law School after retiring from the Teaneck Fire Department, added that he would take everything President Donald Trump has proposed and do the opposite.
“All of the things that we progressives hold dear is under attack,” he said. “The revenue from New Jersey is not the problem, it’s the theft from New Jersey voters that’s the problem.”
Brennan has drawn attention for filing a case last September against Gov. Chris Christie for misconduct in office related to the bridge closure scandal.
The Candidates Forum was moderated by Matthew Traub, managing director and chief of staff at public relations firm DKC. Traub joined DKC after nearly a decade on Capitol Hill, working as chief of staff, press secretary and legislative director to Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. He also has worked for Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Thomas Downey of New York.
Tuesday night’s forum was the third Meet the Candidate Forum sponsored by SOMADEMS. The first candidate forum drew more than 250 people to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) on March 2 to meet New Jersey state Assemblyman John Wisniewski and former assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary Jim Johnson. A second candidate forum on March 30 featured Tenafly Councilman Mark Zinna and small business owner Lisa McCormick.
SOMADEMS is a grassroots political group that was started to support Democratic candidates and progressive issues important to residents of South Orange and Maplewood on the local, state and federal level. The 1,300-member group is one of a growing number of local political groups that have sprung up in the last year to harness a sharp increase in political activism.
New Jersey’s primary election for the governor’s race is on June 6 and the general election is on Nov. 7. Gov. Christie is term-limited and can’t run for a third term.
New Jersey’s gubernatorial election will be one of the first major elections nationwide since the 2016 presidential election. Many Democrats see it as an opportunity to send a message about what they think of the Trump administration policies.
“We want to tell him that New Jersey says ‘No,’” SOMADEMS Co-Founder Larry Hirsch said.