UNION CITY – The three Republicans who want to be governor spent today criss-crossing the state, visiting diners, VFW posts and staging sign-waving rallies – ala Donald Trump.
What’s Phil Murphy think of all this?
He said he “reads the headlines” and not much more than that.
But he has surmised one thing:
“They’re in a race backward, regardless of who they nominate,” he said after a raucous rally in the heart of very-Democratic Union City. “And we’re not going backwards, we’re taking the state forward.”
Now for the rally; it demonstrated one thing – Mayor Brian Stack can throw a party.
A city block next to Ellsworth Park was closed to traffic, there were free hot dogs, everybody it seemed was wearing shirts that read “Murphy, Stack” and a band played mostly Latin music at ear-piercing decibels.
Stack, who in the grand tradition of Hudson County has a “side job” – state Senator – doesn’t have an opponent in next week’s primary. Neither, of course, does Murphy.
But that didn’t stop both men from urging the few hundred people before them to vote.
Still, Murphy was thinking ahead. He ticked off his progressive agenda – a higher minimum wage, reproductive freedom, criminal justice reform, That and more, he said, will be on the ballot this fall.
The state, he said, must go “forward.”
And evidently psyched by the enthusiastic crowd, the governor yelled “forward, forward … ” numerous times.
A few hours earlier and about 30 or so miles to the west, Jack Ciattarelli, the presumed GOP nominee, presided over a more sedate rally in Morris Plains.
He was introduced by departing state Senator and possible CD-7 congressional candidate Tom Kean Jr. as a man who could save and preserve the best there is about New Jersey for future generations.
Ciattarelli set forth a strategy of winning big in traditional Republican counties like Ocean, Monmouth and Morris, and doing better than expected in such locales as Bergen, Burlington and Middlesex.
This is how Republicans can win in New Jersey, but one problem may be where he was standing this morning – Morris County. Tradition aside, Democrats are chipping away, or perhaps more than chipping away, at the GOP’s strength in Morris. Keep in mind that Joe Biden carried the county last fall.
Ciattarelli brought up a head-to-head poll that he said had him 10 points behind Murphy. That’s not bad, he said, contending he’s in better shape than past Republicans like Chris Christie and Christie Whitman were at this time in their races. And they both won – twice in fact.
He likened the race to the 162-game baseball season; you just have to grind it out day by day.
Ciattarelli said he was making multiple stops today and that he planned to finish this evening at a rodeo in rural Salem Country and ride a horse.
There were no horses in Morris Plains, but there was a dog with Jack for governor stickers on its side that got a shout out from Ciattarelli. The dog, Titan, accepted the attention stoically.
Back in Union City, Murphy, as is his custom, praised Stack for running a great city. He probably had the rally in mind.
Political history is never far away in a place as colorful as Hudson County.
And so it was that today’s rally took place about 100 feet away from the 23rd Street residence of Bill Musto, the city’s political boss of yesteryear.
Musto, whose career ended when he was convicted of federal corruption charges about 40 years ago, is long gone, but the unique brand of Hudson County politics continues on.
He threw great parties too.