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MORRIS TOWNSHIP – Phil Murphy likes to say Democrats are advancing in Morris County “step by step” and “brick by brick.”
It sounds like campaign speak for sure. Then again, the governor seems to believe it. Over the last four days or so leading to today’s election, the governor or his wife, Tammy, have made seven distinct stops in traditionally Republican Morris County. He’s either wasting his time or maybe he knows something.
Today’s stop was one of the more unorthodox ones.
On Election Day afternoon, the governor addressed a crowd that included District 25 Assembly candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger in an empty house on Barberry Road. OK, it looked odder than it was. The home just changed hands and the new owners have yet to furnish it. That at least gave a few dozen people room to spread out.
Murphy was quite animated, waving his arms and urging his loyal listeners to support such progressive values as paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage and strong equal pay laws unabashedly. The official reason for his visit was to encourage the troops to go out and canvass for just a few more hours. Murphy himself has made five stops in Morris since Saturday and this was the first time he criticized a Republican candidate directly.
Bemoaning the woes of New Jersey Transit, the governor said Anthony M. Bucco, who is seeking reelection to the Assembly in the district, had supported Christie-era budgets that failed to fund the agency adequately.
Then he talked about a central Republican campaign argument – Democrats are too supportive of immigrants here illegally.
Murphy called it “fear mongering” and said humane treatment of immigrants leads to a safer and compassionate community.
Earlier, the governor engaged in some small talk with Chip Robinson, the county’s Democratic chair.
“I feel very good about these two women,” Robinson said, referring to Bhimani and Draeger.
“I love it,” Murphy replied.
The governor then asked Robinson what some of the key towns in the district are.
“Randolph,” he replied.
Makes sense. Randolph, one of the largest towns in the district, has become very competitive of late. A solid win there by either party likely would mean a lot.
“We’re on the verge of making history,” Robinson said, referring to the possibility of electing Democrats to the Assembly, which last happened during the Watergate era.
Morris County Republicans, meanwhile, sent out an email a few hours ago urging supporters to vote and warning darkly, “The Democrats are out in force – don’t let them outpace us.”
This could be a sign of serious concern among the GOP.
Or could be merely what you say when you want to make sure your people get to the polls.
We will find out soon enough.