Murphy and Sweeney Embrace on Election Day, but Bill Mullen Sounds an Ominous Tone for NJEA Leadership

Insider NJ presents the week's winners and losers in New Jersey's political news during the week of the 2020 budget deadline.

SWEDESBORO – Regional and labor divisions supposedly divided Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Democratic nominee for Governor Phil Murphy, but when the black SUV crunched over gravel amid a jammed South Jersey speedway parking lot on the morning of Election Day, a grinning Murphy appeared and practically leapt into a chest to chest embrace of Sweeney.

This is how Murphy – a retired Goldman Sachs exec and former Ambassador to Germany – started the day, donning a Build Trades sweatshirt and jumping aboard a firetruck alongside the ironworker turned senate president, who’s up against a Republican factory worker backed by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

A deep, low-roar pre-battle male moan pervaded the entire area.

“The teachers are in school right now,” one ally said dismissively when asked about the countervailing NJEA GOTV effort on behalf of challenger Fran Grenier.

That little labor rift – “Stupid,” groaned a Sweeney ally – between the guys here and the teachers went unspoken between the two principal candidates on the ballot today, but NJ Building Trades Prez Bill Mullen hardly stepped gingerly on the topic.

“What the NJEA has done is shit,” Mullen bellowed into a bullhorn, sounding an ominous tone above a sea of Building Trades GOTV soldiers here to work for Sweeney.

Mullen, right, with former Speaker Joe Roberts.

“Elections have consequences,” Mullen added. “We all have teachers in our family. This isn’t about teachers, it’s about the leadership, and the leadership of the teachers is doing an injustice to their members.”

Sweeney appeared at peace as he roamed among his union brothers, who radiated beat-down strength on the morning of Election Day, appearing to enjoy Murphy playing the role of everyman as a horde of Sweeney strongmen surrounded him.

“Be careful, Murph,” an ironworker cautioned as the lanky gubernatorial nominee yanked his frame up a ladder on the back of the vintage Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3)-owned firetruck.

Murphy was fine.

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) introduced him to the crowd as New Jersey’s next governor.

“When I was asked a couple of weeks ago where I want to start Election Day with my family, my answer was right here,” Murphy yelled into the offered bullhorn.

That got a big round of applause.

“We’ve got to close this thing out and God willing we will,” said the Democrat, before musing on a cabinet pick.

“You’ll have a labor commissioner who will understand the issues you deal with every single day,” Murphy added.

Speaking last, Sweeney took the bullhorn amid a low roar of “Steve, Steve, Steve,” and cracked, “You guys ain’t booing, are you?”

They appeared at home with each other: Murphy and Sweeney.

But they’re also politicians.

InsiderNJ asked Burzichelli if he feels the senate prez with Building Trades roots and a Goldman dude with the enthusiastic backing of the teacher’s union that turned Sweeney’s district into possibly the most expensive legislative race nationwide.

“Well, we’re all Democrats so it will be an adventure,” Burzichelli said. “But I think Phil Murphy’s intellect will carry the day in the area of public policy.”



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