Earlier this week, I waited with hundreds of thousands of other New Jerseyans to see if Democratic governor Phil Murphy would win a second term. As I waited, I thought about how life in my beloved home state of New Jersey would be under the rule of challenger Jack Ciattarelli. I had a flashback to the previous administration’s tenure of ham hock Republican Chris Christie.
As a reporter, I covered the eight-year reign of terror of Christie extensively for several local and national publications. Some of the first thoughts that popped into my head as I reflected and remembered the Christie administration included, Bridgegate, Beachgate, and the portly ex-governor taking a hearty bite out of a big greasy fat burger on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Those events and images of Christie pretty much sum up his tenure as governor–along with the embodiment of a piece of fatback, pork rines, chicken bones, and a frying pan full of grease. While Ciattarelli is far more appealing to watch and listen to when compared to the bland and flat tones of his Republican cohort, the two share similar views on social, environmental, and religious issues. And, to a point, they both have an allegiance to Donald Trump and Trumpism.
While the win by Murphy was razor-thin, less than 25,000 or so votes by some estimates, he still won and will remain the head of state for the next four years. While I disagree with some of his policies, he didn’t deliver on some of his campaign promises–specifically securing a state-run bank with a niche focus on secured funding for minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE’s). I supported his re-election bid.
On the other hand, Ciattarelli, a former businessman turned politico, attempted to ride the coattails of Trump into the state governor mansion. A risky decision. He also tried to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s recent slip in popularity and gaffes–the hasty withdrawal of American forces in Afghanistan and a repeatedly revised massive infrastructure bill that continues to stall in Congress. The strategy by Ciattarelli nearly succeeded but fell short, but not by much. The almost win by Republicans should indeed be a wake-up call to Murphy and his team. New Jersey has more than 1.1 million registered Democrats than Republicans. The fact that Murphy barely won should send a clear signal to Murphy that he must do better–a lot better to appeal to the masses in the next four years.
Additionally, he must address his critics, including influential and consequential state allies–most notably the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ). In May, the organization sharply criticized and condemned the governor for legislation on construction labor agreements. The organization called Murphy’s mandate to require Project Labor Agreements (PLA) on all public construction contracts that exceed $5 million “ill conceived” and “only benefiting politically connected union firms.”
At any rate, Murphy is the better choice for leading the state than his opponent. He also became the first Democratic governor to be elected to a second term since Brendan Byrne in 1977. At the time, I was in high school and a student reporter for the local newspaper. I remembered seeing Byrne at a few local rallies. As for the Democratic loss in Virginia–incumbent Terry McAuliffe was defeated by Republican Glenn Youngkin. After reading some articles and watching several videos and speeches about Youngkin, I only marginally like him for one reason—he spells his name like I do, Glenn, with two N’s. Period. I can’t wait for the midterms in 2022!