Incoming first lady Tammy Murphy talks family and politics

On Tuesday, with the inauguration of Governor-elect Phil Murphy, New Jersey will welcome a new first family and a new first lady with a background in both finance and philanthropy who could be a force in the state. First-Lady-to-be Tammy Murphy joins Senior Correspondent David Cruz.

Cruz: The one thing I learned about you is that you grew up a Republican.

Murphy: I did.

Cruz: So, you are a reformed Republican now?

Murphy: I would say I grew up as a Reagan Republican. I grew up in the south and everybody around me was a “Reagan Republican,” I would say. And it was not until later in life when people would say, what do you care about? And I would say, well I care a lot about the environment, I care about gun safety, I care about education. And after I have said a number of times all these various things I cared about, people have said, do you realize you’re a Democrat? And I said, I am? OK.

Cruz: You came to that realization. So, it was nothing to do with the guy you were married to, at that point, him being such a liberal?

Murphy: No. I think actually, originally because he was such a liberal, I think, if you want to call it that, I think in the very beginning I was determined to remain a Republican, so I was increasingly whittling down my space. I would find that I can really support that person because I really believe in what they believe in or one of their platform ideals, but ultimately, I am who I am.

Cruz: So, on election night, in the parking lot of Fairview Elementary School, election day, actually, you guys all huddled, you, the governor-elect, and four children, right?

Murphy: Yes.

Cruz: So, you’re in a huddle and you’re pointing at the governor and you’re gesturing and everybody is just listening in this huddle to you, and I got the impression that you were like a quarterback. Are you the quarterback of team Murphy?

Murphy: I think you could probably say that, but we’re pretty seamless, I would say. Phil and I worked together as a team for a long time, but being the quarterback, that’s kind of fun. I would tell the team that that’s what I am going forward.

Cruz: So, without divulging anything personal, what was that conversation about? Were you saying, you’re going to be in Middlesex, you’re going to be in Essex?

Murphy: Probably. I don’t remember. We do that all of the time. You will see lots of pictures of the six of us with our arms linked around one another and just talking about the game plan, what we’re doing and it’s the “Go, fight, win!”

Cruz: The kids have been on the team politically, et cetera, since they were children.

Murphy: They have. They were all in, and we took them to Germany, of course, when Phil served as the U.S. Ambassador and they all found their niche over there. You’ll hear a lot of Germans talking about, a little bit like the von Trapps. They would come in over the course of dinner and they would peel out in their robes, and when we decided that Phil was going to run for governor, before we announced or anything, we sat down with the kids, in a restaurant in fact, a big round table, and we said we would like to do this, we think we should do this. And at the time, Josh, our now 20-year-old, he was 18, he jumped up, put his arms around his siblings and said, “We’re all in, we’re waiting for you to do this and we’re all excited.”

Cruz: So, your predecessor was way in the background. But you are already out front, a lot. Is that what we should expect from your term as first lady?

Murphy: I think probably, yes. I will work with Phil in anyway possible. There’s so much to do in New Jersey that there is space for everybody to pitch in. And if there is one thing that I like to do is I want to make sure that he’s successful and there’s a lot of areas that I’m interested in that he’s pursuing on his platform. So, it’s an easy fit for me.

Cruz: So, is there going to be a thematic arc to your term as first lady? Is there something that you’re going to concentrate on?

Murphy: I think I will. I think I’m likely to concentrate on the environment. The environment is such a big umbrella. You can talk about social justice, you can talk about the economy, you can talk about health, you can talk about training and education, and obviously innovation. So, I think that there’s enough under the broad theme of the environment that I think I can find something to do in that area and that’s going to be what I’m going to focus on.

Cruz: I get the feeling that you have had some influence on his selection of cabinet members. There’s more women I think than ever in a New Jersey governor’s cabinet. You guys talk about that sort of stuff?

Murphy: We do talk about some of that stuff. I would tell you though that you might be looking at the women, but you should be looking at the fact that it’s diverse. We’ve got the first Sikh attorney general in the United States of America. We’ve got a lot of women, but you have to look at their ethnicity, you’ve got to look at their strengths. At the end of the day, it wasn’t so much, we’ve got to pick a woman, as much as finding the right person for the job. But Phil did say up front and he continues to say, that the cabinet and people who are around him have to reflect the diversity of New Jersey, and I think that you’ll find that they do and will.

Cruz: You’ve worked at Goldman around the same time as Phil Murphy, but you didn’t really work together.

Murphy: That’s right.

Cruz: And then in 1993, did I read that you went out to lunch and 18 days later you were engaged and six months later you were married?

Murphy: It was actually in 1994, but yes. We went out on our first date and got engaged 18 days later, and then thought we better wait six months to get married so we can pick our families up off the floor and that’s what we did.

Cruz: And so who pushed that agenda?

Murphy: I don’t think either of us pushed it. I think it just happened, but we’ve known one another for a long time and so, I think a lot of the time when you are dating, you find that you’ve got to meet the parents, you’ve got to meet the friends. We had all the same friends so it kind of just worked out. I hope our kids don’t do it.

Cruz: So, are you going to have an office in Trenton?

Murphy: I am.

Cruz: So are you going to live at Drumthwacket? That’s the question that everybody is curious about.

Murphy: We are trying to figure that out right now ourselves. As luck would have it, we have four children, but really none of them are living at home as of now. And at the same time we have Drumthwacket that has come up. So, we’re kind of in this predicament where we’ve gone home where it’s heartless without having the four children there, and we also have Drumthwacket. I think we will have a very big presence there if I should be a betting person.

Cruz: What is New Jersey going to learn quickly about Phil Murphy right after next week?

Murphy: I think they’re going to find that he is exactly what they’ve seen on the campaign trail. He is hardworking, he is genuine and he means what he says. He is good for his word and he’s going to do everything he can to be there for the people of New Jersey. I think he’s going to be honest and I think that thus far, we haven’t exactly heard the whole truth about New Jersey from the current administration. And that’s really tough because I think there is a very rosy picture that has been painted, and I think that Phil is going to be the guy who’s going to stand up and say listen we have some major challenges ahead of us, but he’s an optimist.

Cruz: It’s never easy to be the guy who has to serve the medicine sometimes.

Murphy: That’s correct.

Cruz: He’s got what it takes to be ready to have people start throwing eggs at him, not literally, but early on in the administration.

Murphy: He’s very capable of making the tough decisions and standing up. He’s a very strong person with a very strong moral character, and I think if he feels that he’s moving things in the right way, and it’s going to help the majority, if not all of everybody in New Jersey and improving the economy and such, he will go forth.

Cruz: You are also the chairperson of the inaugural committee.

Murphy: I am.

Cruz: And this is four days of events, yes?

Murphy: Five days. So what happened is, I was asked to chair the inauguration and I said absolutely and then I kind of said well what exactly am I going to be doing having never done this before and was told that there’s a prayer service. It’s one day, it’s a prayer service that has limited access, a swearing-in that has even more limited access and then there is a ball in the evening that a high ticket price on it. And, I said well that doesn’t reflect the campaign, it doesn’t reflect that we’re here for everyone in New Jersey, so I have turned it into a five-day affair. We’re starting out tomorrow at the Basilica in Newark. We are going to have Cardinal Tobin oversee an interfaith prayer service, after which we’re going to have a meet and greet at the Newark Museum. On Saturday, the six Murphys and Sheila Oliver are going to start out in the north of New Jersey and we’re going to have a day of transit and highlighting infrastructure in New Jersey. We’re going to be splitting up into three teams. Sheila is going to take the northwest and Phil and I are going to each have two kids with us going in our own direction from north to south — trains, buses, cars. If we’re late, we’re highlighting that we’re late and we’re going to meet with commuters and we’re going to talk to small business owners. We’re going to end up in Cape May that night. On Sunday morning, we’re going to get up and go to Wildwoods where we’re going to have a veterans event. We’re going to have a wreath laying. Then we are going to move up to the Camden Aquarium. We are partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. We’re opening the aquarium for the entire day for free and that’s so that we can enable people who can’t normally afford the expensive ticket to go and enjoy the aquarium for the day. And, then in the evening, we have a big rally and concert in Middlesex highlighting New Jersey talent. We got some fun, fun things for millennials. That’s going to happen from 5 to 7 p.m. And then on Monday, of course it’s Martin Luther King Day so we are going to have a day of service. We are going to be rolling up our sleeves and are asking everyone — family, friends, people who worked on the campaign, in the transition, on the administration — to do the same and we’re spreading out across all 21 counties and we have partnered with charities and we’re all going to do service work. So, we are going to touch all counties and we’re going to try and be there and be accessible and substantive for everyone.

Cruz: Alright. So you’re going to have a small inaugural ball at MetLife Stadium.

Murphy: Exactly. I hate the fact that we were able to secure that in early November because that does not bode well for the Giants or the Jets, but nonetheless that’s where we will be. We are going to have a prayer service in the morning at Shiloh Baptist Church and then we will be at the War Memorial for the swearing in and in the evening we will be at Metlife Stadium and hope to see you there.

Cruz:  Alright. In just a few days, she will be the first lady of the state of New Jersey. Tammy Murphy, thanks for coming in.

Murphy: Thank you so much.