Murphy meets commuters day after election, campaign announces transition chief

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Phil Murphy bounced onto the stage in Asbury Park with insouciant glee, unlike a man weighed down by the enormity of the task ahead. After more than two years of running, the governor-elect could be forgiven a moment of levitation.

“Tonight, we declare the days of division are over,” he said Tuesday. “We will move forward together. This is exactly who we are, New Jersey. We have each other’s backs. To believe in each of us is to believe in all of us.”

Wednesday morning, the governor-elect was greeting commuters in Hoboken and, for a minute, their ‘got to go to work’ indifference bordered on awkward. Addressing an early-morning gaggle of reporters, Murphy talked about his phone call with Gov. Chris Christie.

“He and I spoke last evening,” Murphy reported. “It was a very gracious, very good conversation, focused 100 percent on transition. He and I will meet live in the next couple of days. I don’t think we have it scheduled yet, but he and I are trying to find some time to sit. And it was a really good conversation as was my conversation with the lieutenant governor.”

Murphy appeared with Hoboken Mayor-elect Ravi Bhalla, a Sikh, whose victory came in the face of a late in the campaign anonymous racist flyer. Bhalla said the win was a victory for the city’s better angels.

“You know, that’s not what Hoboken’s about,” said the mayor-elect. “We’re a very diverse and welcoming city and I think hopefully my election shows that.”

Murphy said he wants to be the governor for all nine million residents of New Jersey and pointed to Bhalla’s victory as a sign that unity could be the residue of this contentious campaign. But Rutgers Political Science Professor Mary Segers says Murphy’s path is fraught with political potholes.

“He’s going to have some things that he has to discover, which is, first of all, how difficult it is to work with the Legislature, which has its own priorities and commitments. I mean, we know from Washington, that if you have the same party in both the White House and Congress, they don’t always work, and he’s going to have that here,” said Segers.

The campaign has confirmed that Hackensack Meridian Health Chief of Staff Jose Lozano will lead the Murphy transition. Sources say that Pete Cammarano, the former chief of staff to Sen. Dick Codey, will be the new governor’s chief of staff, something the governor-elect was not confirming Wednesday.

“We’re going to kick it off tonight [Tuesday], so stay tuned,” teased Murphy.

Murphy spent $16 million of his own cash to get the nomination and another $8 million in public funds for the general election, for which he wins the honor of trying to steer the ship of state from starboard to port.