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Voting Block: When a Candidate for Governor Drops by a Block Party

Phil Murphy finds himself among friends at this cookout, but he still has to explain his policies and beliefs

Murphy block party 1
Credit: Lee Hill/WNYC
Neighbors gather in a West Orange backyard to meet gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy (D).

When the Democratic candidate for governor arrived on Hillside Terrace in West Orange, he knew it was friendly territory. This is a heavily Democratic part of New Jersey, near Newark and about 15 miles from New York City. Even so, he had to bridge the gaps between the Bernie Sanders wing of the party and the few moderates who attended the party. Only one of the Republican neighbors chose to attend.

Here are some of the questions the neighbors had for Murphy, and his answers:

  • Why does he support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and won't that hurt businesses across the state and make the state less competitive in keeping and attracting them? 

Murphy said he would phase in the raise so it wouldn't shock New Jersey's economy but that it was necessary to intervene because the market was not correcting the vast income inequality in New Jersey. "If you earn the minimum wage in the state of New Jersey and you're a two income household, you've got two kids you're below the poverty line. That's why you need government."

  • What will he do to repair the decline in New Jersey's higher education system and make the state more competitive to lure back technology and pharmaceutical jobs?
Murphy block party 2
Credit: Lee Hill/WNYC
Residents of Hillside Terrace, West Orange talk politics with candidate Murphy (D).

Murphy said he would invest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs across the state and across a broad range of educational levels, from vocational education to advanced degrees.  He said he would also look for partnerships between the state's universities and technology businesses.

  • Does he believe charter schools and vouchers for parochial schools will help improve outcomes in low performing school districts?

Murphy said he would improve K-12 schools by fully funding the state's formula that determined state aid. He would also build more respect for teachers and put resources into helping poor families by raising the minimum wage and providing services that ensure children get basic services that will allow them to learn. 

  • Because he supports legalizing marijuana, what would Murphy do to prevent unintended consequences such as potentially more traffic deaths or higher levels of drug addiction?
Murphy block party 3
Credit: Lee Hill/WNYC
Talking politics in Hillside Terrace, West Orange

Murphy said he was concerned for his three teenage children but he was convinced by the research and the experience in other states that legalizing marijuana was the right thing to do. He believed the state could devise a good law and a plan that took into account the experience of the other states that went first.  "It's a social justice issue for me. First of all, the biggest contributor to the white/non-white gap in persons incarcerated are low-level drug crimes." 

  • How can you assure us that if elected governor, there won't be a repeat of the Jon Corzine years, since he also worked at Goldman Sachs before going into politics?

"Yes I worked at Goldman Sachs, but there are other skills I picked up there that are relevant for what ails us right now," Murphy said, pointing to his study of job creation all over the world and working with bond-rating agencies. "My life, like all of us, is a book. It's filled with many chapters." Goldman Sachs was just one of those chapters, he said.  

Part of Voting Block: A statewide collaborative reporting project to encourage political discussion and more informed voters in neighborhoods across New Jersey ahead of this fall’s gubernatorial election.

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