Amidst the noise and nonsense of political campaigns it always seems in the end that voters, well informed and clueless alike, often make a choice based on their instincts and experience.
People generally seek answers to simple questions: “Is there even a chance I can trust you, are you committed to doing what’s right and, do I get a sense that you will care about me and the every-day-life-issues important to my family and my community?” And, when needed, will you help me?
Having watched and engaged with political candidates over the years, my instinct for this gubernatorial election, knowing there are no painless remedies to the state’s countless problems is that Phil Murphy fundamentally understands what the voters deem important.
Couple that with his vision as to how to manage the affairs of state and, come to think of it, he just may be, with his energy, enthusiasm and experience, a man ideally suited for the moment. Unlike, say, President Trump.
My experience also tells me that Kim Guadagno with her complete loyalty to Chris Christie over the last eight years does not, in myriad ways, understand what the voters deem important. And, she already had her shot with the ship of state.
Making A Choice
Pat Colligan, President of the State Policeman’s Benevolent Association (PBA), may have framed his choice for governor quite succinctly this week with his reaction to an ‘open letter’ to law enforcement from GOP candidate Kim Guadagno.
In her letter Guadagno claimed the democratic duo of Phil Murphy and Sheila Oliver are the “most anti-law enforcement ticket ever” to run for governor and then went on to argue for support from the PBA rank and file.
The PBA president rebutted her attempt by pointing out he had a letter ‘eight years ago” from 2009 candidate Chris Christie stating he stood with law enforcement and that he wouldn’t change pensions for current or future retirees, surely an issue important to the PBA President and those he represents.
Colligan simply told Gaudagno he’d file her letter “under the same heading” that he filed the one he got from candidate Christie: under the title “fiction.”
That’s one recent example of “can I trust you” and Kim Gaudagno came up short. In large measure it has to do with credibility. You either have it or you don’t.
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And, as for “committed to doing what’s right,” from the beginning Phil Murphy was right when he said immigrant communities need protection.
He is also instinctively right to want to lend a hand to those less fortunate rather than resorting to back handing a massive amount of people by using lies and misinformation.
The Gaudagno campaign did exactly that by lifting a page from the Trump playbook with its 30-second commercial demonizing immigrants, misrepresenting her opponent and stoking fears.
Which quickly brings me back to Trump, a man who was born wealthy and now has so much more than most people can even imagine yet his instincts are to deny those with so little.
As compared to Phil Murphy: a man who was born and raised with so little, achieved a great deal and now looks to do much more for so many.
So, it comes down to a choice of whether you seem to want to help people or hurt them.
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Flat out, politics is about timing, position and luck. Some might argue that Phil Murphy got lucky with the way the 2017 Democratic Primary for Governor unfolded.
Then again, the Democratic Party just might have gotten lucky that he did win the hard-fought for nomination, after all. Here’s one example why:
If State Senate President Steve Sweeney, a strong contender for governor early in the year, were the nominee (he never did run even though it was expected he would), would the powerful teacher’s union (NJEA), with its tens of millions of political action dollars, be using those resources against him as he ran for governor?
If you think Sweeney’s fight to survive his district re-election is a head scratcher, imagine translating that angst statewide?
And, to Murphy’s credit, he was resolute in his quest for the nomination. For the most part he was an outsider who fought his way inside.
That’s says something about his character, his willingness to engage and his potential ability to wrestle with a “you never know what they’ll do’ majority in the state legislature. In that arena, I’m betting his chances are better than Kim Gaudagno’s.
Finally, do you and will you care about me?”
There are a few names that immediately come to mind as role models if I had to rely on my experience as to whether a candidate would care about me, or others, and here they are, why them and what they have in common:
One. “Big” Steve Adubato. A stalwart foe and friend over the years who once told me he wanted his epitaph to read: “he was not a nice guy.” But, there is a certain “north” star quality about Steve as a man and as a political and community leader. He lives to help people and he’s done remarkable, extraordinary work in doing so.
Two. John Kelly, the late GOP Assemblyman. John took great pride in writing legislation that he believed would benefit people of all walks of life. He authored nearly 150 bills that were signed into law, which he would proudly assert was simply designed to help people.
John authored the bill that guaranteed the pension and health benefits to all families of deceased cops and firemen. He was the most courageous politician I ever knew and a GOP candidate that the current PBA president no doubt would support.
Third. Current Assemblyman Tom Giblin of Montclair. In the ‘old school fashion’, he even hand delivers holiday turkeys on Thanksgiving and Christmas. He gets it. His charitable deeds are legendary and more often than not they are done quietly and anonymously.
All together, what they have in common is one valuable credential: helping people.
As we all know, this election is vitally important. In a mundane way, the result may well depend on turnout and just where that takes place.
But, who knows. It may come down to the answers to my simple questions. In particular, who do you think will be best at helping people? My instincts say Phil Murphy.