The InsiderNJ Interview: Essex Dems Chairman Jones Offers His General Election Game Plan Advice to Governor Murphy

Leroy Jones

Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman LeRoy Jones, a former Essex County freeholder and four-term Assemblyman representing LD27, is a partner with 1868 Public Affairs, and serves as the Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Organization as well as on the municipal level for his town of East Orange.

Given the resistance that Governor Phil Murphy has experienced within the Democratic Party in New Jersey in furthering his agenda, insiders wonder whether it is worthwhile for Murphy to cheerlead and campaign for Democratic candidates, incumbent candidates in particular, going into the November election, when so many have been in diametric opposition to his initiatives.

Chairman Jones, however, believes that Murphy is willing to work for the good of the party and put forward his best foot.  Whether or not those energies will produce positive dividends for the governor himself, of course, will have to be seen.

“I think Phil Murphy is a consummate Democrat,” said the chairman. “He believes in Democratic values and Democratic principles,” Jones added.  “He is the titular head of the state party.  I think he is going to do everything he can do to make sure Democrats are elected.”

Jones was sanguine as far as Democratic Party unity was concerned ahead of the elections, and the role the governor will play to advance his party’s natural goal of ever-more-officeholders.

“I think there comes a time where there is a meeting of the minds and cooler heads will prevail,” he told InsiderNJ. “When we begin to talk about differences and policy initiatives, we can get to a point where we make those compromises to achieve what is best for the party if there is a need to compromise.  In some cases folks are aligned with what the governor has, and there are other things where there are differences of opinion.  All those differences on everybody’s side should be respected and we have to be able to find that middle ground where we don’t sacrifice our ideologies, our principles, and where policy is not watered down.  I think that’s what everyone is going to be working towards going forward.”

“There’s no other game in town when you come down to it,” Jones added, dismissing the idea that Murphy might not be anything but on board with efforts to get fellow party members elected, even if they turned out to be potentially antagonistic to his agenda.  “I think Phil Murphy will always put himself in a position to attempt unification.  That’s the kind of guy he is, I believe he’s a bridge-builder and that doesn’t mean that everybody has to agree on everything, but as long as they can respectfully disagree then that is more achievable than stone-throwing and unnecessary negative innuendos that go back and forth sometimes.”

Those who follow state politics may find Jones to be somewhat understated, especially in light of the Sweeney/Murphy struggle for supremacy that has plagued the governor from the outset.  Civility itself is not typically associated with New Jersey public life, but the fact remains that the timbre of discourse remains harsh, whether intra- or inter-party, from the Oval Office to, so very often, the local mayor’s desk.  “It’s on every level of government, it’s not unique to the state government,” Jones said.

Going forward, Jones offered his thoughts on areas Murphy might do well to insert his campaigning energies.  “You have District 25, 26, if those districts are winnable, and other Republican districts like 21, then that adds to the Democratic caucus.  I would imagine that these will be individuals with different policy point of views that may or may not be aligned with the governor’s, but it is about being able to work out our differences so the greater good is accomplished.”

While the Republican Party in New Jersey is in a profound minority on the state level, Jones paid service to what cross-aisle cooperation could be cultivated.  Some political thinkers have speculated whether or not Murphy or Murphy-allies might be able to find some traction and common cause with Republicans feeling lost in the wilderness, in light of a seemingly impenetrable Democrat policy wall, whose strength the likes of which the president would dream of for the southern border.  “I think bipartisanship is always good, it helps with respect to the greater good and the concerns of the people.  I don’t think it comes at shunning Democrats, everyone has a role to play.”  But Jones also reminds us that he is firmly on the side of Team Blue.  “I’m a Democrat so I’m staunchly in the corner of those Democrats of a like-minded will.”

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