NEWARK, NJ — Phil Murphy claimed the 2017 Democratic nomination for governor in Newark on primary night, promising to both boost New Jersey and challenge President Donald Trump.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who defeated Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli in the Republican primary, will face Murphy in the November general election.
"I reject completely the us-versus-them leadership that defines Chris Christie and Donald Trump," said Murphy to a crowd of more than 1,200 people at the Robert Treat Hotel in downtown Newark on Tuesday night. "The lesson I've learned is this: it's not what you take, it's what you give back."
With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Murphy, a retired Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, won more than 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 approximately five percent of the vote.
Many of Murphy's prominent early supporters in Newark, including former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, former Councilman Calvin West and Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, were visible in the crowd Tuesday night.
"Some factions from Newark felt that Murphy was the best candidate at a time when Newark was evenly divided between Murphy, Sweeney and Fulop," said James. "We were outgunned and outnumbered, but we galvanized support along the way."
Sen. Richard Codey, a former governor and senate president and a member of Team Murphy's kitchen cabinet, who was in the front row as Murphy gave his victory speech, said Newark played a big role in Murphy's victory.
Codey then said that Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who initially supported Fulop for governor, also made a difference when he made the sift to Murphy.
"Getting Baraka on board was huge," said Codey. "When Fulop got out, he was in. It was instantaneous."
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.
Baraka pointed out that any divide between urban and suburban issues might be exaggerated.
"Foreclosure is also a suburban issue," Baraka said. "All of these type of issues affect all working families in New Jersey. And all of them don't just live in the cities."
Murphy ran off a litany of progressive policies during his speech that he said he would support if he makes it to the Statehouse, including raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour, the restoration of the millionaires' tax, the legalization of marijuana beyond medical use, and improved 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 eyes of national political observers are locked in on New Jersey and Virginia, whose closely watched gubernatorial contests are seen as referendums on Trump.
The ghost of Trump haunted Murphy's speech, with Murphy framing his New Jersey gubernatorial campaign within a panorama of resisting the president and his policies.
"The very essence of America is now under assault," said Murphy as he excoriated what he called President Trump's "warped vision" of America. "We have a president who thinks that tweeting is leadership. Make no mistake - what Donald Trump does in Washington matters right here. We are better than Donald Trump and we are better than Chris Christie."