Home>Congress>A Tale of Three Needham, Mass. guys: Phil Murphy, Pete DeFazio and Charlie Baker

A Tale of Three Needham, Mass. guys: Phil Murphy, Pete DeFazio and Charlie Baker

By David Wildstein, December 01 2021 6:40 pm

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), left, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, center, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. (Photos: Needham High School).

As New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy prepares to be inaugurated to a second term next month, two of his Needham, Massachusetts neighbors announced they were calling it quits.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who graduated from Needham High School with Murphy in 1975, said today that he would not seek re-election to a third term in 2022.

A few hours later, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), who also grew up on Needham, said he would not seek a 19th term in Congress.

Baker, a Republican, and Murphy were also classmates at Harvard University.

The Massachusetts governor preceded Murphy in New Jersey; he lived in the state from 1957 to 1961 while his father was working at Westinghouse.

Murphy’s childhood home on Central Avenue was less than half a mile from the house DeFazio’s grew up in on Daley Street.  DeFazio’s father, Mike, was the wrestling coach at Needham High School – he passed away before Murphy got there – and Pete DeFazio was a wrestler at that school and later at Tufts University.

The two Democrats took different paths on the way to public office.

While Murphy had a successful Wall Street career before becoming an ambassador and governor, DeFazio wound up in politics at a much younger age.

After Tufts, DeFazio went to graduate school in Oregon and stayed there.  He was an aide to Rep. Jim Weaver from 1977 to 1982 and then ran for Lane County Commissioner in 1982.

When Weaver retired in 1986, DeFazio ran for Congress.  He won the Democratic primary by one percentage point and the general with 54%.  He became chairman of the Transportation committee in January when Democrats took control of the House.

“Thanks to his exceptional efforts, Americans will have better roads, stronger and safer bridges, and a modern rail system to use throughout the country,” said Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark), one of two New Jersey Democrats on the committee.  “Chairman DeFazio has been a powerful champion of environmentally-friendly transportation, such as zero-carbon busing and electric automobiles.”

Murphy and Baker both came from political families.

Charles D. Baker, the governor’s father, served in the Nixon and Reagan administrations and as U.S.  Under Secretary of Health and Human Services when Margaret Heckler, a former Republican congresswoman from Massachusetts, as the HHS Secretary.

His great-grandfather, Charles D. Baker, served as a New York state assemblyman in the 1880s.

Murphy’s grandfather, John W. Murphy, served as an Alderman in Newton, Massachusetts from 1910 to 1918.

Peter DeFazio, third from right, on the Needham High School Varsity Wrestling Team in 1965. His father, coach Mike DeFazio, is far right.  (Photo: Needham High School).


Phil Murphy appears as Oscar in his high school production of Sweet Charity in 1976. (Photo: Needham High School).
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