Former Wall Street executive Phil Murphy is favored to win New Jersey's Democratic gubernatorial primary next week in part because he's invested $15 million in his candidacy. But that's not the reason he should win.
The former ambassador to Germany is fluent in government policy and has offered creative solutions to problems in a state that sorely needs a course correction after two terms of Gov. Christie's poor stewardship of the budget and environment.
Murphy, 59, of Middletown, understands the need to raise taxes on the wealthy and slash corporate loopholes to collect the revenue needed to heal the nation's sickest pension fund, properly fund public schools, and provide more access to health care.
Murphy promises to do a better job getting federal funding for disaster and foreclosure relief, a smart idea considering New Jersey sends much more revenue to Washington than it gets back.
To address the pension mess Christie tried to fix, Murphy, who chaired a pension task force during the Codey administration, would wisely pull pension money out of high-risk investments like hedge funds. But if Murphy is elected he will need to lose his apparent hesitancy to get unions to reduce benefits for new employees.
That may be a hard sell after the state reneged on its agreement to pay its legally required share into the pension fund if the unions agreed to increased costs. But it's going to take more concessions to protect the retirement savings of government workers, and the next governor can't be shy about asking for them.
Murphy says he would be open to upgrading building standards in flood-prone areas, a necessary step toward making them resilient. He would attack New Jersey's lingering foreclosure crisis by purchasing vacant homes and converting them to rentals with an eye toward helping tenants become homeowners.
The former chief of investment firm Goldman Sachs' European and Asian operations says he wants to build up the state's new energy and technology sectors. He says New Jersey, with its exceptional universities and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, should be a natural leader in green energy.
Murphy has pledged to depoliticize the Pinelands and Highlands commissions. If elected, he will need to be less reticent about the over-sized influence that New Jersey's political bosses have on policy. You have to wonder sometimes just who runs the government in Trenton.
Also running for the Democratic nomination are Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Sayerville; State Sen. Ray Lesniak, Elizabeth; former firefighter Bill Brennan, Wayne; Tenafly City Councilman Mark Zinna; and Jim Johnson, a Montclair attorney who was undersecretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration. Among that group, Johnson stands out for his ability to verbalize the need for progressive ideas to address the state's problems.