Democrat Phil Murphy hosts town hall at Rutgers
After the unexpected outcome of the 2016 presidential election, many Democrats and liberals are counting on local and state governments to oppose the incoming Donald Trump administration.
In that same vein, Phil Murphy, the current Democratic front-runner in the upcoming New Jersey gubernatorial race, stated his mission to "take back" the Garden State and America at a town hall in the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus Wednesday night.
“Twenty-two days ago the world and our country changed," the former Goldman Sachs (Asia) president and a U.S. ambassador to Germany said. "The stakes got a lot higher."
New Jersey and Virginia are the only two governor's races up in 2017, and they will be the first two state elections to take place after Trump takes office, he said.
The gubernatorial hopeful, who labeled himself an “outsider,” unveiled the main premises of his platform. He said he will focus on strengthening New Jersey’s economy, revamping infrastructure, investing in public transportation and tackling college affordability.
In his speech, Murphy vowed to increase funding for public education in the state, with particular attention to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He said investing in these fields will help to bring New Jersey back to its roots as the original "Silicon Valley."
Murphy also advocated for including a voting student member on Rutgers’ Board of Governors.
Murphy said Gov. Chris Christie (R) has hijacked New Jersey to fit his personal narrative during the past years. He asked the crowd what had happened to the state that was once a leader in environmental policy, that funded women’s health, embraced gun-safety laws and allocated more resources to higher education.
At the national level, Murphy said the Democratic Party is in need of fresh and full-time leadership now more than ever.
Murphy said former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) is a viable option for the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. Murphy worked alongside Dean during his time as financial chair of the committee.
In his speech, Murphy also devoted a substantial amount of time to condemning the policies of President-elect Trump.
Murphy denounced proposals by Trump and his circle including the proposed Muslim registry and said he would like his name to be included if such database is authorized. He likened the registry to when Nazi Germany began requiring Jewish citizens to register.
“What we found out collectively as a (society), we thought you could catch up to that. You cannot catch up to that. We got to nip it in the bud at the very first step, and let us never forget that lesson in history,” he said.
Murphy said he finds Trump’s rhetoric on undocumented immigrants unacceptable.
He said he supports granting state IDs to undocumented immigrants, as well as the ability for undocumented students to qualify for state financial aid to New Jersey colleges.
“With the election of Donald Trump, you have to add to that agenda. You have to say listen … we will protect the identities, we will protect the rights of these individuals, so I endorse wholeheartedly the notion of protecting our brothers and sisters," he said.
If elected, Murphy said his office would not participate in any federal edict that would involve “rounding people up.”
He said he approves of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka ensuring that the state’s largest urban center would remain a "sanctuary city" for undocumented immigrants.
Major cities across the country, including New York City and Los Angeles, have vowed to protect their undocumented residents in defiance of threats made by the president-elect during the campaign trail of cutting federal funding, Murphy said.
“This is a moment of character. This is a character test. I don’t know where the money will come from. The question is, 'are we on the right side of history or not?'” he said.
The former U.S. ambassador has secured the endorsements of high-profile Democratic officials in the state, including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D).
His most competitive challenger in the Democratic primary, which will be held next June, is state Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19).
When he announced his bid, Wisniewski said voters have the “opportunity to choose between Wall Street and Main Street.” This was assumed to be an attack on Murphy, who had a long tenure at Goldman Sachs.
Murphy said he “doesn’t take stuff like that personally” and that he looks forward to debating with Wisniewski.
“I will be the governor that makes decisions at every turn based on what’s best for the next generation in the state, not what’s best for my next election, and the next generation of the state was sitting in the room tonight,” he said.
Rutgers for Phil Murphy, formerly known as Rutgers for Hillary, is one of the various University groups that co-hosted the town hall.
The student organization’s strategy manager and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Michael Zhadanovsky said he considers Murphy the best choice to lead New Jersey.
“As soon as the election happened, it became pretty clear that we are not going have the type of leadership that we want in the White House," he said. "So, we need New Jersey and we think Phil Murphy is the right answer for that."