Democrat Phil Murphy, a millionaire former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany who’s never held elective office, will succeed Republican Chris Christie as New Jersey’s governor after defeating Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno on Tuesday.
Murphy, a progressive who grew up outside of Boston and smiled so much on the campaign trail that he was mocked for it, will bring to Trenton a sharp change in style from the combative and Jersey-born Christie, who became famous for his public fights with constituents and politicians.
Tuesday’s double-digit victory by Murphy, an unabashed liberal who supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and providing free community college, means New Jersey’s government will be under full Democratic control for the first time in eight years. At the same time, it will inevitably be read as a repudiation of the deeply unpopular Christie and equally unpopular President Donald Trump.
With 99 percent of the vote counted, Murphy was leading Guadagno 56 percent to 42 percent.
He will have line-item veto power over the state’s roughly $35 billion budget and the power to name top state officials, like the attorney general, who, in many other states, are elected. But he will also confront a retirement system underfunded by billions of dollars after two decades of neglect, a deteriorating public transit system and an economy that has lagged the nation’s.
The governor-elect began his campaign with a number of pledges meant to appeal to liberal activists and public workers unions. In addition to promising free tuition at community colleges, he promised to increase protections for undocumented “dreamer” immigrants who came to the state as children and improve NJ Transit, which has been plagued by delays and outdated infrastructure.
But he’s struggled to explain how he’ll pay for his programs, promising to raise taxes by about $1.3 million — largely based on increasing the tax rates on the state’s wealthiest individuals and an anticipated $300 million in taxes sales of legalized marijuana.
The amount, however, won’t come close to covering his campaign promises.
Murphy has also floated the idea of creating a state bank modeled on the only other existing one, in North Dakota.