April 23, 2019 | 71° F

At Rutgers Town Hall, Phil Murphy discusses DACA, college affordability and economic growth

Kim Guadagno was set to speak tomorrow, but cancelled the event at the last minute

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

Democratic candidate Phil Murphy held a gubernatorial Town Hall meeting at the Eagleton Institute of Politics on Cook campus. His opponent, Kim Guadagno, backed out of a similar event that was set to take place on Thursday night.

Inside the drawing room of the historic Eagleton Institute of Politics, Democratic candidate Phil Murphy greeted a packed crowd of students, reporters and community members. With the gubernatorial election quickly approaching, the Town Hall style meeting symbolized his last appearance at Rutgers University before the polls open on Nov. 7.

Murphy currently leads in the polls by 25 percent over his opponent Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R-N.J.), according to NJ Advance Media. Guadagno was scheduled to lead a similar town hall at Rutgers this Thursday, but canceled the event at the last minute, citing scheduling demands.

During his hour-long appearance, Murphy spoke about increasing college affordability, improving infrastructure and health care, the current threats to undocumented immigrants and his plan for creating a more transparent administration.

“You wake up every day thinking that you’ve got what you’re going to focus on in New Jersey, then you get these out-of-left-field things. You know, I wasn't expecting to be talking about the NFL a few days ago, or North Korea a few weeks ago or LGBT in the military — it’s just extraordinary and DREAMers are high on that list,” Murphy said. 

With threats by the federal government to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Murphy noted that the role of governors in standing up to injustice with a “steel backbone” is particularly paramount.

“This one really gets me deeply. You have 22,000 DREAMers in the state, they pay 60 something million dollars in taxes, contribute about a billion, as I recall to economic activity, 91 percent are either in school or working," he said. "They are every bit as American as my four kids … yet they’re being shown the door.”

One of the more nuanced tasks that Murphy wants to take on as governor is creating an Office of Immigrant Protection, which would handle legal and technical issues faced by immigrants — including those affected by the Muslim ban.

Currently, a large portion of the governing that affects citizens is done on state and local levels rather than in Washington, Murphy said.

The Town Hall format alternated between questions from students in the crowd and questions from NJ Advance Media reporter Matt Arco. While a wide-breadth of subjects were covered, many of the students' questions pertained to college affordability.

“The cost of going to college in-state has gone up 20 percent,” Murphy said, adding that his opponent has not slowed this increase during her eight years as lieutenant governor.

Murphy’s campaign is advocating for free community college in New Jersey as well as more affordable student loans and the creation of a public New Jersey bank. The latter would make government spending more transparent and clear-cut, he said.

His economic plan for the state has similar goals.

“This is an economy that is weak, unfair and works for very few. It is an economy, under the almost eight years of the Christie and Guadagno administration, that has favored the big corporations, the very wealthy at the expense of things like funding public education and funding infrastructure,” he said. “I personally am optimistic that we have a lot of good growth opportunity ahead of us. We think we can reignite the innovation economy, we can reignite the infrastructure economy to pick two.”

John Weingart, the associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, said that events like the Town Hall are vital because they affect how students interact with politics.

“President (Donald J.) Trump is taking up a lot of the oxygen, so there’s less focus on the gubernatorial race,” Weingart said. “We don’t get a new governor often, we know we’re going to get a new governor, that’s usually a much bigger deal in terms of everyday conversation than it is this year because there is so much going on at the national level that is diverting all of our attention.”

The Eagleton Institute holds a number of events and initiatives to encourage political engagement, including the Youth Political Participation Program (YPPP), which helps students register to vote.

Six weeks from today, Eagleton will hold a panel discussion entitled “The Morning After,” where prominent democrats and republicans unpack what happened in the gubernatorial elections and what the implications will be, Weingart said.

“I think it’s important that politics be de-mystified so people, all people, including students, understand that politicians are real flesh and blood people who for the most part are trying to do what they think is right. They’re trying to do really hard jobs and to get exposed to those people usually shows a different image of politicians that most people have,” he said. 

Kira Herzog is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @kiraherzog1 for more.

Kira Herzog

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