By Olivia Rizzo
New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy gave a speech at the College on Monday, Oct. 17. Although the gubernatorial election isn’t until next November, Murphy is currently the only declared Democratic candidate running for the governorship.
After being introduced by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-N.J.) and County Exec. Brian Hughes, Murphy took the stage in the Kendall Hall Black Box Theater, ready to introduce himself and his platform to local residents and students. The town hall-styled rally allowed Murphy to answer the audience’s questions and make a personal impact on the crowd.
Murphy began by briefly speaking on this year’s current election, calling it one of the most consequential presidential races in American history. He encouraged the audience to be knowledgeable of the entire ballot, not just the presidential candidates.
“If this is the most consequential presidential election in our lifetime, then I would say the gubernatorial election next year is one of the most consequential,” Murphy said.
New Jersey has an open seat in this election year, as current Gov. Chris Christie has reached his term limit.
“We’ve got to win this thing one vote at a time,” Murphy said.
For nearly an hour, Murphy spoke about his childhood, entry into politics and current platform. Born in Boston and the youngest of four children, Murphy categorized his family life as “middle class on a good day.” He said he worked illegally at 13 years old as a dishwasher to help his family earn money.
Now married and a father of four, Murphy spent much of his career working in business and finance after earning a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2009, Murphy was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to Germany.
After returning to the states three years ago, Murphy said he and his wife thought the New Jersey economy was stuck. He then spent the next two years learning about policy before ultimately making the decision to run. Murphy officially announced his candidacy last May.
“(New Jersey is) not in a great place and it won’t be easy,” Murphy said. “We can (do) greater quicker.”
Critical of Christie, Murphy said the current governor has hijacked the state’s heartbeat and soul to fit his political identity.
“I want to be the guy that gets us back to that heartbeat,” Murphy said.
Murphy placed a strong emphasis on the state of the economy, outlining that in order for there to be considerable improvement, there needs to be innovation, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) development and an investment in the state’s infrastructure.
“I will be the governor who makes decisions that are what’s best for the next generation for the state, not just the next election,” Murphy said before opening up the floor to answer the audience’s questions. “Please put me into the category of the right people going into government for the right reasons.”
During the question and answer portion of the rally, Murphy promised to provide money and support for women’s reproductive health. Later, he outlined his plan for prioritizing research and development of STEM and using the state budget to prioritize higher education.
Murphy answered a few questions from students at the College, including Levi Klinger-Christiansen, a senior English and political science double major who asked if Murphy would sign a legislation that legalized marijuana if it came across his desk. Murphy said he would sign a legalization bill, so long as the program was sensible.
“I was obviously pleased that he directly answered my question, among others,” Klinger-Christiansen said. “He definitely comes across as an honest hardworking guy. I will say, at times, I felt like he was performing. For instance, when he took off his jacket and loosened his tie, I’m sure he wanted that to seem very natural, but it came across as scripted and quite deliberate, as a means for him to relate to the crowd.”
Senior political science major Katherine Wallentine was also in attendance and enjoyed Murphy’s presentation.
“I liked the rally because Murphy had a warm demeanor that felt very personal and intimate with his audience,” Wallentine said. “It was a less aggressive approach than I expected, but he definitely had adequate answers to the questions posed by the public.”
Murphy closed the rally on an encouraging note. He showed a photo of President Barack Obama, who was a teammate of Murphy’s on their high school basketball team. At the time the photo was taken, no one would have thought Obama would one day be the president of the United States.
“Anyone can be in that basketball picture,” Murphy said.