Opinion: The New Jersey Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

Ore Obiwumi

According to Governing Magazine, the Republican Party is extremely vulnerable in the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial race for a number of reasons. The first is that New Jersey has not elected two consecutive Republican governors since 1947, a historical pattern that is unlikely to be overturned this November.

The second is that New Jersey, a reliably blue state, has become even bluer since Gov. Chris Christie’s first election. According to NorthJersey.com, the New Jersey Democratic Party has registered over 160,000 more voters than the GOP registered over the past eight years.  Finally, and most importantly, Christie has reached such unprecedented levels of unpopularity that he puts anyone associated with his party at a clear disadvantage. In fact, most of the Republicans who are attempting to succeed him have chosen to distance themselves from him, including his Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, who recently came out of Christie’s shadow by publicly and vociferously opposing him on several policies.

All of this means that the GOP faces long odds in order to win the governorship. In fact, it is now all but obvious that the Democratic nominee is guaranteed the governorship.  

Although the Democratic and Republican primaries will not be happening until June 6, the nominees for both parties have essentially been determined. According to Matthew Clarkin, Political Director for the Morris County Democratic Committee, which was the first county committee to endorse Phil Murphy for governor, “The 2017 Democratic and Republican primaries for governor are all but decided.  On the Republican side, there are only two real contenders for the nomination, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli.  With little support from the party establishment outside of his home county of Somerset, Ciattarelli won’t have enough of a base to overcome Guadagno’s advantage.

On the Democratic side, Phil Murphy has notched nearly all support from Democratic figures and organizations in a state that heavily favors such endorsements. He also has significant support from progressive organizations that were more oriented towards Bernie Sanders in last year’s Presidential primary.”

There is very little doubt that the Democratic Party holds a clear advantage in this year’s gubernatorial race, and they intend to use it. The Democrats’ front runner since early November has been working towards the governorship for almost two years. His two main competitors, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop both dropped out of the race in late 2016. Sweeney dropped out of the race because in the face of the immense wave of support for Murphy, he saw no way forward. Fulop dropped out unexpectedly, stating that he would run instead for a second term as mayor. With both men out of the running, that leaves only former Goldman Sachs executive and ambassador to Germany, Phil Murphy.

Murphy, whose greatest weakness is that he has a similar resume to the unpopular former Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, has stated that he has no plans for the presidency. This means that he is committed to doing the best possible job for the state of New Jersey. He also plans to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, ensure that all New Jersey workers are entitled to paid sick leave, promote equitable pay, increase affordable pay and expand affordable housing. His goal is to unite the state, while bringing more jobs and a better quality of life to the state.

By sending a clear and positive message, Murphy has been able to unite “all but the most anti-establishment elements of the Democratic Party, we are very proud to say that Phil will almost certainly be our next governor,” Clarkin said.

Although the primaries are still four months away, it is already clear that Murphy is the best candidate, and that he will win both the primary and the governorship.


Editor’s Note: Obiwumi worked for the Morris County Democratic Committee in the fall of 2016

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