Murphy’s War

From left: Bollwage, Shabazz, Murphy and Perkins Auguste.

ELIZABETH – The forgotten 1971 Panavision movie starred Peter O’Toole, mucking around in the dead waters of a global meltdown, which might just as easily apply to the current circumstances of Governor Phil Murphy as he tries to wrestle with the politics of New Jersey against the backdrop of President Donald J. Trump.

Murphy radiates goodwill and good energy in all weather, and he seemed his usual upbeat self as he bodega-hopped with Mayor Chris Bollwage, Councilwoman Patricia Perkins Auguste and Councilman Carlos Cedeno a day before Election Day.

He said he’s confident that Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) can ride the will of new and independent voters to reelection.

“It’s one of these things where you know it when you see it, and I believe if we execute, this is going our way – if we execute – that means the next 24 hours are crucial,” said the governor, as he grooved onto the sidewalk and hand shook his way from one Latin eatery to the next.

“I think there was some view a few weeks ago that there would be ballot hopping or ballot skipping, and I don’t see any evidence of that,” Murphy said. “I don’t see it. Of course, we won’t know till tomorrow night, but the early voting numbers are up and my gut tells me that’s going to be more on our side than their side, in this state in particular. I saw the Quinnipiac Poll this morning, and I was struck by the swing among independents in just three weeks. I think Trump and [Republican senate candidate Bob] Hugin have overplayed their hand, in a different way – and the silver lining of that is galvanized support for us.

Downtown Elizabeth.

“The rooms have been big, with lots of enthusiasm,” he said.

He clapped the hand of a man standing in the crosswalk.

When he topped the curb, a local resident named Suzette Shabazz told him, “I’m voting for you.”

He grinned back.

“Bob Menendez,” Murphy clarified. “Vote for Bob Menendez.”

Cedeno and Bollwage steered him into the next salsa den.

“Get out and vote tomorrow,” he told a tableful of revelers. “Big day tomorrow.

“We’re going to take the country back!” he added.

But how does he keep New Jersey held together after this election, in time for next year’s assembly races?

“We’ll know Wednesday morning,” said Murphy. “We’ll know if the young or newer voters turned out. If we see they did, it will no doubt be a situation where we say ‘holy cow, new and young voters ,that’s a big deal for the Democratic Party.’ I hope that’s the conversation we’re having.”

The back channel grumbling about potential 2019 primary throw-downs between Murphy and the establishment – with the governor attempting to corral a Howard Dean electorate against those implacable allies of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) – have abated, at least for the moment.

There’s too much energy against Trump right now in the context of the senate race to indulge palace intrigue.

The larger dimensions of a national-sized political war blotted out the statehouse drama – at least for Murphy, who galloped with Bollwage and Cedeno – and Elizabeth Democratic Committee Chairman Tony Teixeira – through the next bodega doorway.

Murphy and Bollwage


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