NEWARK, NJ — East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor, Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren and the members of the East Orange and Orange city councils joined Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones and the rest of the ECDC leadership on the steps of the Essex County Courthouse in Newark on Friday, Oct. 7, to formally endorse Phil Murphy for governor in 2017. Murphy is a retired Goldman Sachs executive who served as U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013.
“I just want to congratulate Ambassador Phil Murphy and our county chairman, Leroy Jones, and our county’s support for a great candidate for governor,” Taylor said at the event. “It’s so fitting and so humbling that everybody would come together at this early stage and recognize that it’s not about any one individual. It’s about a movement. It’s about a party. It’s about good government for our county, but also for our state.”
There is strength in numbers, Taylor said, and praised Jones for managing to bring together the entire Essex County Democratic Committee membership in support of Murphy’s 2017 gubernatorial bid. Jones said it wasn’t hard to do, since that kind of teamwork happens all the time in East Orange.
“Today the Essex County Democratic organization sees fit and proper to endorse Phil Murphy as our next Democratic governor for the state of New Jersey,” Jones said Oct. 7. “We do that proudly, and more importantly, we do that in unison.
Jones also thanked Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney “for their consideration and their service to the people of their communities and most importantly to the state of New Jersey.”
Jones and the ECDC endorsement came one day after Sweeney announced via email that he would not be making a run for governor in 2017, despite what political insiders had long expected.
Sweeney’s decision came almost one week after Fulop, another prominent Democrat expected to run for governor next year, dropped out of the race and endorsed Murphy on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Fulop said he would run for re-election to a second term as mayor of Jersey City in 2017, while Sweeney said he would seek re-election to the state Senate leadership.
Sweeney and Fulop were considered the two likeliest Democrats to vie for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2017; other potential candidates were Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and state Senator Raymond Lesniak, who represents the 20th Legislative District in Union County.
But that all changed Oct. 7, when “Joe D,” as DiVincenzo is known to supporters in Essex County, joined Jones and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. and other prominent ECDC members at the courthouse to collectively endorse Murphy.
“We are one heartbeat here in Essex County and we are one pulse,” said Jones on Oct. 7.
Jones introduced DiVincenzo as the man “who always puts Essex County first.” And DiVincenzo seemed to take that to heart.
“Essex County has 22 towns and 800,000 residents and our diversity is our strength; no question about it, this county — governmentally and politically — is the best county in the state of New Jersey,” DiVincenzo said. “This is truly a great team. This county, when it comes to the primary election, just look at the numbers … that’s why we’re No. 1.”
DiVincenzo said he, Jones, Baraka, and Payne have had many conversations with Murphy, getting to know him during the last two years. He said Murphy’s “a very nice guy and I had to ask him: ‘Why are you running for governor? It’s probably the worst time in the world ever to run for governor.’”
“I laid it all on the line; I said: ‘The state of New Jersey has some serious financial troubles and you’re going to have to tackle these issues; you’re going to have to be honest, upfront and you just got to do the right thing,” DiVincenzo said. “And (Murphy) committed to me that’s what he would do. That’s what we did in Essex County 14 years ago and that’s what he needs to do. But Phil Murphy cannot do it alone. He needs to have the support of everyone, Democrats and Republicans, to make sure we turn this state around. And I have the confidence in Phil Murphy as our next governor to do the right thing and to get this state in the financial order that it should be in.”
According to Baraka, the fact that Murphy was able to galvanize and unite all of the disparate ECDC members behind his gubernatorial run was a minor miracle. Baraka had previously endorsed Fulop for governor in 2017, but after Fulop dropped out, he joined the other ECDC members in endorsing Murphy.
“I want to thank our next governor, Phil Murphy, for uniting Essex County because it was looking kind of shaky for a minute there and we appreciate that and we actually need that to be united,” said Baraka on Oct. 7. “I’m loyal; I was born that way; I don’t know any other way to be. I don’t smile in one hand and have the other hand waiting to stab you. If we’re going down, we’re going down together but this time we’re going to go all the way on to victory and I’m going to be there with you.”
Baraka said Murphy is “probably more ideologically compatible to me than anybody else who is in the race now” and that’s why he’s supporting him. Payne agreed with Baraka that the ECDC coming together around Murphy’s candidacy was special, if not historic.
“This is another great day in the county of Essex, where we have the opportunity to support an individual that we have gotten to know over the past several years who seems like he wants to point the state in the right direction,” Payne said at the event. “It’s been an embarrassment at times in Washington when my colleagues come up to me and ask: ‘Well what’s going on in New Jersey? What’s up with your governor? What is that Bridgegate thing? It’s been a sheer embarrassment.”
Conversely, Payne said, Murphy’s good reputation in Washington would make it easy, “when we look for dollars for the state of New Jersey.” He also said New Jersey and Essex County would benefit from the fact that the former ambassador to Germany knows President Barack Obama and was a part of his administration, and knows “a lot of the players on the federal level.”
Also present at the courthouse event was Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, the former Assembly speaker, who represents Orange and East Orange as part of the 34th Legislative District.
Oliver praised Murphy, saying “Governor-elect Murphy knows that Essex County is going to bring it home. Ambassador, I don’t have to tell anyone that is assembled here that we have been longing for a breath of fresh air in our state capitol. We’re going to work with you day and night to make certain that Essex County delivers a resounding victory on your behalf and we will be in Trenton on January 2018, welcoming you into the golden dome.”
And Murphy singled Oliver out for special praise and recognition during his endorsement acceptance remarks, giving her a “shout out” in gratitude for her remarks about his candidacy.
Murphy also thanked Jones for keeping an “open mind and an open door,” saying, “I’ll never forget that.” He promised Payne he would be “right by your side to protect our residents and communities” adding that there is “enormous opportunity” to have a “real friend in Washington at the highest levels” of government if Hillary Clinton is elected president. And he said he’s looking forward to working with Baraka, Oliver, DiVincenzo and others.
“I’m proud to be standing here in the great city of Newark to receive your endorsement and I will not be a governor who shows up only for a press conference; I want to be your partner for stronger public school, for secure streets and communities and for stable property taxes,” Murphy said. “Our campaign headquarters is just a couple of blocks away and that’s no mistake. It’s because I know that we can do so much by bringing together the private sector, the public sector and our institutions of higher education, and it begins right here in Newark. As Newark goes and as Essex County goes, so goes the state of New Jersey, period.”