NJ Politics COVID-19 Report Card

NJ’s COVID-19 bodycount is 10,843 and rising. That profound loss of life (combined with the economic turmoil we’re all facing) mean we won’t be grading on the curve. Not today.

  • NJ’s Media   A

Everyone wants to blame the media for everything all the time and that’s nothing new. It’s the most boring, unoriginal lament in politics.

But while we the rest of us stay home, reporters are out and about, risking COVID-19 exposure to keep the public informed during a health pandemic.

Demanding accountability and transparency from the government was never easy, not even in the best of times when newsrooms were teeming with people and newspapers were flush with cash.

My colleague Sue Livio’s investigation into nursing home deaths asks all the toughest question. I wish there were a dozen more just like her.


  • NJ Governor Phil Murphy   B-

When COVID began to escalate back in mid-March, we all got to see New Jersey Gov Phil Murphy’s style close up. His daily press briefings revealed a resilient leader, calm and unflappable, doing his best to protect his people from COVID’s wrath.

I didn’t agree with Murphy all the time. Closing our state parks was boneheaded. But generally, Murphy’s leadership gives me comfort and in times like these, I’ll take it. Polls suggest most of NJ feels the same

But I can’t give him an A. Or even an A-.

Not with headlines like these:

“Requests for N.J. public records rejected during coronavirus crisis as Murphy administration uses little-known law,” blared NJ Advance Media.

I support the Governor’s agenda and I don’t want the media to hate him. And playing possum with public record requests is exactly how to make the media hate him.

Full stop.

  • NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli   C+

NJ’s Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli is smart and compassionate. But her track record is mixed so far.

She probably won’t get the credit she deserves for her time in COVID’s trenches day in and day out. A nurse by training, that’s something Commissioner Persichilli apparently has the grace and (lack of) ego to deal with. I admire her for that.

On the other hand, her department has a lousy track record honoring public records requests from the media.

I wish I could give our health commissioner a higher grade. But given the death toll in NJ’s nursing homes, I’m probably guilty of grade inflation already!


  • NJ Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso  D

Serena DiMaso is dying to get her roots touched up. Literally. The Monmouth County lawmaker was last seen stirring the pot on Twitter because hair salons are still closed down.

“The governor is complicit in the destruction of the people and businesses in this state,” one breathless follower replied to the Assemblywoman’s critique of Governor Murphy.

“We need to take this to the next level,”came another reply from someone whose feed suggests he’s itching for a civil war.

Having to wait another week or two for a hair cut is a minor inconvenience. It’s not an invasion of your constitutional liberties.


  • NJ Chamber of Commerce   D-

Surely you’re familiar with the expression “flattening the curve” by now. But incase you’re still unacquainted, flattening the curve is, per Wikipedia, a public health strategy to slow down the … the COVID-19 pandemic. The curve being.. a visual representation of the number of infected people needing health care over time”

I haven’t met a single person from NJ who isn’t ready to get back to earning (and spending) money! And so the NJ Chamber of Commerce’s new campaign urging consumers to shop local seemed timely.

Their new motto: “Raise the Curve.” (See pic and judge their Photoshop and font choice for yourself.)

“Raise the curve” is the worst COVID-era branding so far. Who knows whether the Chamber was being ironic (or just breathtakingly clueless) urging shoppers to “raise the curve.” But it was amateurish to roll out such a poorly-conceived campaign whose message contradicts the advice of public health experts during a pandemic .

Heads should roll.

  • NJ  Senate President Steve Sweeney   F

COVID-19 represents the biggest health pandemic of 0ur lifetime so what’s NJ Senator Steve Sweeney’s up to? Last I checked, Trenton’s most powerful Democratic lawmaker was (yet again) parroting GOP/Chamber of Commerce talking points.

With COVID cases skyrocketing among farmworkers in his own district, Sweeney’s “big fear is we’re going to reopen later than we should.”

Reopening NJ’s economy too soon contradicts recommendation (from pandemic experts) to knuckle down a bit longer. That’s how we curb transmission rates so we can get aback to our lives! But don’t tell that to Steve Sweeney whose raison d’être and leitmotif is (still) to contradict and undermine NJ Governor Phil Murphy at every turn.

NJ’s COVID-19 body count currently hovers at 10,843, a number larger than most towns in Sweeney’s South Jersey district. So wouldn’t it be nice to have a Senate President with more to offer than his own petty grievances?


Jay Lassiter is an award winning writer, podcaster, and videographer who spent the past 15 years chronicling the ups and downs of NJ politics. He’s on Twitter @Jay_Lass.




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