POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Murphy taps another assemblywoman to lead a state department

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Governor-elect Phil Murphy is not exactly searching far and wide to fill out his cabinet. So far, he’s tapped a county prosecutor, a former freeholder and two state lawmakers for administration posts, along the way, causing some head scratching, including Tuesday, naming Assemblywoman Marlene Caride to head the Department of Banking and Insurance.

“Marlene has been a municipal prosecutor and served as a locally-appointed official. She has provided pro bono legal counsel to women on matters related to domestic violence and spousal and child support,” said Murphy. “And as a real estate attorney, she has ensured that consumers are treated fairly by mortgage companies in the purchases of their homes.”

All important work, for sure, but hardly the stuff of a Banking and Insurance commissioner in a state where the governor-elect is proposing a new, state-run bank. Both the governor-elect and the assemblywoman were asked about that Tuesday.

“No, I don’t. I don’t come from a banking background,” said Caride, responding to a reporter’s question. “However, I am a consumer. I am an attorney who handles real estate matters that deals directly with mortgage companies. I’ve dealt with short sales that have to deal directly with the mortgage companies and foreclosures. In my practice, I did personal injury, so I’ve dealt with the insurance companies from those angles.”

Murphy played down the nominee’s lack of banking experience.

“This is not doctoral calculus,” he said. “It’s all the tax money, or virtually all the tax money, that gets raised at the state level until it’s paid out in expenses, leaves the state and none of it comes back to work in New Jersey. This is a vehicle to keep that money in the state to be lent into the state.”

If she’s not so much into the “language of numbers,” Caride is fluent in Spanish, which the governor-elect suggested was historic, if not entirely necessary, for someone tapped to monitor the state’s banking and insurance industries. The Q&A, post-announcement, was Murphian in its brevity, a common thread which is starting to fray somewhat among the State House press. The governor-elect seems to be catching the vibe.

“Bear with us,” he said, turning to his team’s communications director. “Dan, I assume you will be the one who will let us know if we’ll be able to reconvene this week. I’m highly confident we will.”

The governor-elect still hasn’t taken more than three or four questions at any press conference. When the staff was cornered on that issue, it promised the media that more robust press briefings are in our future.