POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

State Democratic Party Chair Talks Gubernatorial Race

Time’s running short for the state’s major political parties to marshal their forces and refine their messages ahead of the June 6 primary. The chair of the state Democratic Party, John Currie, joins NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron.

Aron: Chairman Currie, as Passaic County chairman, you’re for Phil Murphy. As state chairman, you’re neutral.

Currie: I’m neutral.

Aron: How difficult is it to keep track of that?

Currie: Well it’s two separate roles, Michael. State chairman, I’m there more as a referee if I have to be, but we’ve had a spirited, clean debate so far. I’m very, very pleased with the mannerism of all the candidates and obviously I want to be prepared to bring them together, create a great coordinated campaign for whomever the winner is.

Aron: Were you at the debate last night at Stockton University?

Currie: No.

Aron: Did you see it?

Currie: I saw parts of it.

Aron: OK. From what you hear, how did your man, Murphy, do?

Currie: Well, Murphy did very, very well. I thought it was relaxed, he got his issues across on, of course, education, environment, his bank. I think he articulated his issues very well.

Aron: John Wisniewski at one point during that debate said this is not a campaign, it’s an auction, implying that Murphy has bought the front-runner position that he holds. How do you respond to that?

Currie: Well I respond to it that Murphy has earned the position that he holds. He’s run around this state for three years. He’s met with every county chairman. He’s met with county committee people. He sold his message. And, you know, I’m happy to say that all 21 counties decided to get behind Murphy. Michael, we’re going to have a Democratic governor after seven and a half years of Chris Christie, regardless of who wins.

Aron: You didn’t see the debates last night, but in the Republican debate, [Kim] Guadagno and [Jack] Ciattarelli were quite good, most people thought. It’s not a foregone conclusion, or is it?

Currie: I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s going to be a competitive race as we go forward and we’ll wait and see. We’re going to be prepared to run against the winner.

Aron: Jim Johnson has said that this whole process is undemocratic. The nominee has been selected before the people have even voted. How would you respond to that?

Currie: Well I would respond to that, that’s why we have parties and parties of teams. And, you know, most of us have chosen a team and the voters that are not involved in the party still have an option. Mr. Johnson is a very, very nice, smart, talented man. I know him pretty well. And I still think he’ll have a place in the Democratic Party.

Aron: There’s a fair amount of anti-Trump feeling still in New Jersey, at least in Democratic circles. To what extent does that play a role in our fall elections?

Currie: I think it’s going to play a major role in the fall elections. You know, as I’ve met with the group 11th for Change in Congressman [Rodney] Frelinghuysen’s district, as well as I’ve met some people, actually I’ve met a candidate already in Congressman [Leonard] Lance’s district. Her name is Linda Webster. And people are excited. We have a good half dozen or more people interested in running in the 11th District.

Aron: Five seconds. Who’s the most vulnerable — Lance, Frelinghuysen, [Tom] MacArthur?

Currie: MacArthur.