WEST ORANGE – It had all the trappings of a formal campaign kickoff.
Phil Murphy and Sheila Oliver both spoke, as did LeRoy Jones, the state chair of the Democratic Committee. Also speaking were state legislators Teresa Ruiz and Britnee Timberlake.
Senate President Steve Sweeney was in the audience – at least in the beginning – as were such Essex County honchos as Joe DiVincenzo, the county executive, Armando Fontoura, the sheriff, and Chris Durkin, the county clerk.
Officially, today’s event at the Mayfair Farms catering hall was a gathering of African-American women for Murphy. It included a private meeting, a luncheon and a press event that seemed very much like a pep rally.
The governor was delighted to point out that both the names “Murphy” and “Oliver” now appear on his campaign literature, which is something that only happens after the June primary.
The general theme of Murphy’s reelection campaign is emerging – The state made it through the pandemic and good times are ahead.
“The economy is starting to bounce back in a big way,” the governor said.
A bit later, he said the state is ready to go “to a place it’s never been before.”
The governor also emphasized the steps he’s taken to make the state “stronger and fairer.”
It may have been a bit off topic, but Murphy spoke just a few hours after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld voting restrictions in Arizona that Democratic groups had challenged.
He said that while New Jersey is doing all it can to expand voting and to expand democracy, “everybody else is going the other way.”
OK, “everybody” is not going the other way, but you get the point. His administration is working hard to ensure that the state’s economy benefits all residents.
The Murphy campaign starts with an obvious advantage – a voter registration lead of about 1.1 million. Polls, albeit early ones, show Murphy with a double-digit lead over Republican Jack Ciattarelli.
Lt. Gov. Oliver says she’s not paying attention.
“We don’t get caught up in the pundits and the polls,” Oliver said.
Her boss agreed.
“We’re running scared, we’re running hard,” Murphy said.
Jones got in on the act as well, calling the Murphy-Oliver reelection effort a “crusade,” and imploring all like-minded people to join.