How many women has New Jersey elected to the United States Senate? Zero. None. ZILCH. That in itself should not come as a surprise.
In fact, only two members of New Jersey’s current fourteen member Congressional delegation are women. And yet, on the very day the first female Democratic candidate threw her hat into the ring for the upcoming U.S. Senate election in New Jersey, 26 “liberal and progressive grassroots” organizations published an open letter attacking her candidacy and credentials. And even worse, most of these organizations are led by and have memberships largely composed of so-called feminist women.
Before I go any further, let me be clear, this is not an endorsement of Ms. Tammy Murphy’s Senate candidacy. However, it is a push back against the criticisms leveled at her candidacy, which reek of misogyny and a very glaring double standard. The open letter claims that there is only one reason why powerful Democrats would endorse Ms. Murphy, saying – “Let’s be clear, if her name was Tammy Johnson, we would not be having this conversation. It is because Tammy Murphy is married to the Governor.” All the focus is on her last name. There is little mention of her work or her credentials. In fact, I would argue that Ms. Murphy has more policy experience than her husband did when he first ran for Governor.
No other first lady in New Jersey has taken on policy issues the way Ms. Murphy has over the last six years. When Governor Phil Murphy was first elected, New Jersey had one of the worst rates of Black maternal and infant mortality. Ms. Murphy chose to use her platform to raise awareness of the issue and worked with legislators to change health outcomes for this previously ignored segment. And contrary to the claims in this article that Ms. Murphy is only speaking about reproductive rights to increase airtime ahead of her campaign announcement, she has long been a staunch champion of abortion, speaking at the launch of the Reproductive Freedom Act in 2020.
Ms. Murphy has not only worked on policies that affect women and children, she has also worked hard to get Democrats elected up and down the state. In her time as First Lady of New Jersey, Ms. Murphy has crisscrossed the state, helping both organizations and candidates raise funds. She has headlined events for almost every Democratic hopeful running for office. The inherent assumption that any endorsements she receives are not on her own merit is offensive. Moreover, as the New York Times points out, there are four sitting members of Congress from New Jersey with connected family members – all of them male. They too benefitted from those relationships in their bid to get elected, and yet somehow Ms. Murphy’s candidacy is the only one that is deemed to be “a process that subverts democracy”?
We have several qualified, announced candidates seeking the Democratic party’s nomination to be New Jersey’s next United States Senator. They will all be making their case to New Jersey voters. Progressives should be pushing for more female representation in Congress. Instead, they chose to single out a smart, hard-working woman for who she is married to. That is troubling. And it needed to be called out.
Anjali Mehrotra is a fierce advocate for representation and gender parity in all walks of life but especially at all levels of elected office. She serves as a National Board member for National Organization for Women, on the state board for American Association of University Women of New Jersey and on the cabinet of Emerge New Jersey. All three organizations actively work to increase the number of women in Congress.