The Murphy campaign should have brought extra chairs. Eh, it wouldn’t have done any good. Even with 300 nailed-down auditorium-style seats and plenty of folding chairs, they were a precious commodity – worth the investment for those who arrived early – as over 400 people packed into the Local 1262 union hall in Clifton Tuesday evening. Springsteen played on the loudspeakers, as the white walls of the union hall were increasingly lined with the seatless, awaiting another Monmouth resident and the real star of the night’s event: Phil Murphy.
Chairman Currie, on his Passaic home turf, was at the front of the room, greeting various elected officials and party leaders. Clifton Municipal Leader and Councilwoman Lauren Murphy was there, leading the charge in announcing dignitaries. Assemblywomen Sumter and Oliver. Senator Nia Gill. Prospect Park Mayor Mohammed Khairullah and newly-elected Clifton BOE member Fahim Abedrabbo. Haledon Mayor Stampone. Paterson Democratic co-chair Al Abdelaziz and Councilman Andre Sayegh – an early Murphy backer – were there, as was Paterson Councilman Alex Mendez. Freeholders Duffy, Best, and Bartlett. Numerous municipal chairs and local electeds; the list goes on. The energy in the room was palpable.
Currie introduced Murphy, saying of him, “he doesn’t want to just be put there, he wants to do the job,” adding that he’s been endorsed by all twenty-one county party chairs. “I don’t know where the Democratic Party would be without the Chairman,” said Murphy, taking the microphone. Running short on time, the gubernatorial candidate gave a brief overview of his policy plans and his own background – focusing more on his working class childhood, less his Goldman-Sachs adulthood. That would come later.
Alluding to the recent back-and-forth flurry of attacks via mailers and emails between his campaign and that of Assemblyman John Wisniewski’s, Murphy said,”this is a competitive primary” while hitting all of the progressive and Democratic sweet spot issues, to the cheering approval of the audience. “Its not enough to grow the pie,” he said, “if everyone can’t get a slice.” Fifteen dollar minimum wage. Equal pay. Paid sick leave. College debt. Climate change. Women’s health. Healthcare in general. Fighting discrimination of all kinds. Restoring civility. He weaved them all in throughout the night.
Literally rolling up his sleeves, he dived into the Q&A without missing a beat.
His charisma and affable demeanor was on full display. There was almost (almost) something Clinton-esque – Bill, not Hillary – in his audience interaction, wading into the crowd, leaning in and listening intently, and his answers peppered with personalization. Sure, it was a mostly friendly crowd. But Murphy proved adept at connecting policy points to a human narrative.
The first question, from a teacher, was prefaced with a declaration: “I love you,” before asking about pensions, which seemed to be the general sentiment of this particular crowd. The town hall wasn’t without a heartfelt moment, either. One woman asked about funding for programs for the developmentally disabled. Her sister, who has Downs Syndrome, stood next her. Murphy spoke of the necessity for government to ensure funding for its most vulnerable and funding for developmental disabilities would be a priority.”I’m with you,” he said, blowing her a kiss, leading the crowd in applauding the sisters.
Then came the question he knew had to come at some point. The inevitable Goldman Sachs, Wall Street question. It’s been the main line of attack by his primary opponent John Wisniewski.
“I was worried. After hearing you for an hour and a half, I’m not as worried,” said the questioner, alluding to the candidate’s financial services background.
“People ask me about this all the time. Its true I worked in a bank. And parts of the experience can be relevant to governing, like the creation of a public bank,” Murphy responded. “But it’s also true I didn’t grow up that way. There have been lot of different chapters in the book of my life. Just like all of us. We all have different chapters. Whether you conclude yea or nay, read the whole book.”
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- Al Abdelaziz
- Alex Mendez
- Andre Sayegh
- Clifton Democrats
- Goldman Sachs
- John Bartlett
- John Currie
- John Wisniewski
- Lauren Murphy
- Mohammed Khairullah
- New Jersey Democratic Party
- Nia Gill
- Passaic County
- Passaic County Democrats
- Phil Murphy
- Prospect Park
- Sheila Oliver
- Terry Duffy
- Theodore Best
- Wall Street
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