POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Phil Murphy Becomes First Candidate in 2017 Governor’s Race

Phil Murphy announced today that he’s running for governor in 2017. He sat down with NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron to discuss his decision.

Aron: Phil, why have you decided to declare your candidacy now?

Murphy: A couple of reasons Michael. The first of all and probably the most important we’ve made the decision, the kitchen table discussions with my wife Tammy and our four kids aren’t any longer about if or whether, they’re about when. We’ve crossed the bridge and we’re big believers in transparency and calling things for what they are. So that’s the most important reason, we’re there. We figure if we’re there, let’s get out and tell exactly what we’re doing. Secondly, there are as you likely know, there are a lot of things that you cannot do unless you are a declared candidate under the laws in New Jersey and we want to make sure we can get going on a bunch of those things.

Aron: Such as?

Murphy: Raise money, any campaign expenditure, etc. So polling, whatever it might be, you cannot do unless you’re a candidate, so those are two reasons. The biggest one is we’ve decided that we’re not going to hold back.

Aron: It’s not a big shock that you’re running.

Murphy: Perhaps, perhaps, not a shock to my family I can tell you.

Aron: You’re not going to self-fund then? You’re going to raise money, you’re not going to take public funding?

Murphy: We’re not going to take public funding for the primary. We are going to put some of our own money in, a meaningful amount on day one we’re lending the campaign a significant amount of money.

Aron: Can you say how much?

Murphy: I will say — $10 million. But importantly I’m a Howard Dean guy. I’m the former national finance chair for the Democratic National Committee. We want to raise money. We want to raise money both online and take advantage of the enthusiasm that we’ve developed over the past couple of years in the conversations and town halls we’ve had, and also from folks writing checks. So we’re going to raise aggressively.

Aron: What’s the rationale for a Murphy candidacy?

Murphy: Good question. I can answer it a number of different ways but I can say this: there’s increasingly a consensus around the following two pronged assessment about New Jersey that its future depends on really two types of leadership. One type that can understand how economies grown, particularly in the 21st century. Growing our economy, developing that kind of ecosystem that frankly Boston has developed or Northern California, that that’s what’s within our reach in New Jersey and understanding how to actually get that done. The pieces of the puzzle exist in New Jersey, we just haven’t invested in them, we haven’t put that puzzle together. That’s one type of leadership. And the second piece is leadership that is a lot more focused on what’s best for the next generation in New Jersey and not what’s best for the next election. People had had it. They’re tired, they’re leaning out that window like in the movie “Network” tired as heck and they’re not going to take it any more. They want leadership that they feel had their back and that’s the space I hope to be in.

Aron: You talk about the ecosystem. The business community has done a decent job of presenting the idea that we are taxed to the gills in New Jersey. That the business climate is not that attractive, and yet you’re a liberal and we think you want to maybe hike the gas tax, or ultimately the millionaire’s tax. How do you balance that?

Murphy: I think you can balance that. I think the argument that you’re one or the other is last century’s argument. I look at the decision for instance, Michael, that General Electric made to move their world headquarters to Boston. Now I know Boston. They didn’t go there because it’s cheaper to do business in Boston than it was where they were in Connecticut. They went there for the totality. For the all of those pieces of the puzzle. The communities in which their workers and customers want to live in. The infrastructure. The public schools. The emphasis on research and development and institutions of higher education. That whole nexus. And remember we were Silicon Valley, New Jersey was Silicon Valley, before Silicon Valley was Silicon Valley. We’ve got all the pieces here. Are we the lowest cost place to do business? We aren’t and I don’t think we ever will be. However, can we get back to what we had been on our best days which is I know I pay a premium for being here, but it’s worth it because I get a whole basket of stuff back in exchange for that premium. That equation is broken at the moment.

Aron: Do you believe in keeping taxes down if possible?

Murphy: If possible, but I think it’s going to be hard. I think it would be false to stand up and say, “I’m running because I believe we can cut taxes by X or Y percent.” This state, thanks to the current administration, we’re in a crisis and we’re going to have to lock arms and get out of that, but I’m a huge optimist about New Jersey. I’m encouraged because it’s been done elsewhere. Jerry Brown led California, another liberal Democrat, from a $25 billion deficit to an $8 billion surplus in five years. That’s the sort of change I hope we can see sooner, frankly. That’s the sort of change in our economy and our state I think that’s available to us and we can get out with the right kind of leadership.

Aron: Phil Murphy, it’s 13 months until the primary. We’ll be seeing more of you. Thanks very much.

Murphy: Thank you Michael as always.

Phil Murphy talks about fixing Atlantic City’s problems, Gov. Chris Christie’s shortcomings, who he supports for president and what makes him different from other potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates in this extended interview: