May 24, 2019 | 60° F

Rutgers experts weigh in on Phil Murphy's transition to the governor's office

The governor-elect appointed one of the most diverse transition teams in state history


This week, the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers released a research project, outlining the ways that Governor-elect Phil Murphy can most smoothly transition into office. Murphy will officially take over as New Jersey's governor on Jan. 16.

This week, the governor-elect appointed 81 individuals to one of the most diverse transition teams in the state’s history.

In anticipation of Phil Murphy’s swearing in ceremony, which is slated to take place on Jan. 16, The Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers released a list of recommendations for a successful transition into the gubernatorial office. 

John Weingart, the associate director of the center, told Rutgers Today that they compiled the report through in-depth research and interviews with 25 former political advisors and officials. 

“There was a general consensus among veterans of past administrations that newly elected governors and their advisors often underestimate the extent to which the transition period can make or break their first year in office,” Weingart said in the interview. “To make the most of the 10 weeks between election and inauguration, the nominees should head into the election with several trusted advisors quietly preparing for the possibility that they will win.”

Weingart has worked at the helm of Eagleton for nearly 20 years and has published numerous papers on gubernatorial politics, including two that are specifically focused on transitioning from candidacy to the governor’s office. 

The institute played a key role in raising awareness of this year’s state and local elections through a series of nonpartisan town halls, educational events and voting initiatives. But now that election is over, Weingart said the new administration’s battle is far from over. 

“First, there is the matter of the state’s challenging fiscal situation,” he said. “Recent incoming governors have generally discovered that the fiscal news is worse than expected, but the real picture will become clearer as the governor-elect and his team receive more specific briefings and data. Next, unique to this 2017-2018 transition, the federal government’s policies and priorities are changing at dizzying speed. They will clearly have significant impacts on state government, in often unpredictable ways.”

To counter these roadblocks, Weingart said it is paramount for the incoming governor to prepare for crisis by forming a team capable of communicating and acting quickly. He added that, in order to fulfill campaign promises like establishing a $15 minimum wage, free community college and legalized marijuana, Murphy will need to set an achievable list of early goals.

The report also advised the team to spend the period between the election and inauguration forging strong relationships with state legislators from both parties. 

“A combination of early successes and a projection of competence and caring would build a good foundation for the new administration,” Weingart said. 

Earlier this week, Murphy made headlines by appointing women and minorities to high ranking positions on his transition team. In a statement to the Associated Press, he said this was part of a conscious effort to mirror the “diversity, talent and potential” of New Jersey itself.

“Our co-chairs boast a rich diversity of both background and experiences, of valuable government experience and unique outside perspectives,” Murphy said. “To a person, this transition is full of incredible talent and experience, and I’m thrilled to see them serve.”

Kira Herzog

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