Roger Bacon, a Phillipsburg man, sought to challenge Governor Phil Murphy in a primary contest, having been fed up with the governor’s extensions of emergency powers during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Jersey State Democratic Party challenged Murphy’s two would-be opponents, Bacon, as well as Lisa McCormick. Judge JoAnn Candido determined that over three hundred of his petition signatures were invalid for the Democratic filing.
On the morning of April 14, Bacon wrote on his social media campaign page, “It is with a heavy heart that I announce after the New Jersey Democratic Party challenge to my ballot petition that I am withdrawing from this year’s New Jersey governor election.”
Bacon’s campaign had shared C-SPAN videos asserting that COVID-deaths had been overinflated as well as anti-vaccine and anti-masking memes. “”
When asked if Governor Murphy was acting desperately, Bacon was succinct. “It’s a distinct possibility. This emergency has been going on for over a year now, to me it is totally unjustified.”
At the time of this writing, Governor Murphy has been leading the state with emergency powers for some thirteen months of the pandemic. In that time, there have been, according to the New Jersey Department of Health, 860,447 total confirmed COVID cases in the state, with 120,589 “probable” cases, and 22,569 total confirmed deaths, with 2,592 total probable deaths. Almost 13 million tests have been conducted and the state reported that 6.1 million doses of vaccines had been given to New Jersey residents, with some 2.5 million listed as “fully vaccinated”. There are approximately 8.9 million people living in the state.
Bacon had created a somewhat familiar campaign slogan, and an unusual one for Democrat-hopefuls, of “Make New Jersey Great Again.” He did not say specifically if Governor Murphy himself had been unfair handling his critics, but rather blamed the atmosphere on the left. He ascribed the silencing of opposition to Murphy to a trend known as “cancel culture” where a collective action is taken to silence, erase, or otherwise remove something or someone deemed offensive or unacceptable. “I think the cancel culture has a lot to do with that. People don’t really have a voice anymore, there was always a pro and con position of rebuttals and we aren’t hearing that now.”
Governor Murphy battled with the business community over the course of the pandemic when shut-downs and capacity restrictions were imposed as measured to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. In some cases, restaurants banded for a class action lawsuit, and a South Jersey gym made national news by brazenly defying the governor’s orders to shut down, incurring enormous fines and even breaking down the locked door to their own gym at one point. The opposition to Murphy’s decisions were not exclusively from the right, and some Democratic state legislators have also expressed their weariness with the governor’s continual extension of a state of emergency. Even though the pandemic has yet to end and each day averages over 3,000 new cases statewide, the emergency powers are not deemed justifiable to Murphy’s dissenters, citing damage done to small businesses and displeasure with having to alter their routine habits to help mitigate the spread. Some of the content on Bacon’s campaign social media described the restrictions as tyranny and “slave code.”
Bacon had run against Governor Jon Corzine in the 2009 primary, coming in last place out of a contest of 4 men, a race which Corzine secured overwhelmingly. The former candidate said of New Jersey Democrats, “I really don’t think the rank and file is in total agreement with [Governor Murphy’s] policies. There are a lot of disappointed people across New Jersey with the ways he has trampled the Bill of Rights, for example. My main message was to abolish the emergency powers and end the emergency. The laws come from the legislature, not the executive branch.”
After withdrawing from the campaign, Bacon said he could support whoever is not Phil Murphy in the election ahead, apparently ruling out an attempt at a write-in campaign or independent bid. “My thinking is, we are looking at a Bush-Gore scenario here. I am encouraging people to support the Republican primary winner. My objective is still to remove Phil Murphy from the governor’s office and replace him with someone more moderate and end the emergency. I’m still going to hold any governor accountable to end any emergency and abolish all emergency powers.”