There’s one thing – perhaps the only thing – Donald Trump and Phil Murphy have in common: neither can find a chief of staff.
The search for one of the most powerful insider positions in state government has been going on since December 7, when the New Jersey Globe first reported that Pete Cammarano was resigning.
Cammarano is scheduled to depart at the end of next week, but Murphy still doesn’t have a replacement.
Sources familiar with the search process say that Murphy is using a group of emissaries – including campaign advisers Brendan Gill and Steve DeMicco and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver – to approach prospective chief of staff candidates and gauge their interest. In some cases, DeMicco has met with individuals at his office in New Brunswick to discuss – not formally interview — the post.
Several of the individuals on the short-list are not part of the governor’s inner circle, which has necessitated a level of outreach before a candidate gets put in a room with Murphy.
The process also shields Murphy from having to sell someone on taking the job — or worse, being turned down.
Several potential chief of staff candidates made the same request: they would need the power to reshape the governor’s staff, with the ability to make their own hires, fires, promotions and demotions; and they wanted assurances that Murphy was willing to accept compromises that could fix the toxic relationship that exists between the governor and state legislative leaders.
Murphy, the sources say, was unwilling to commit to that.
Among those who have received some overtures from the emissaries (listed alphabetically) include: former Assembly Executive Director/Andrews chief of staff Bill Caruso; former Corzine chief counsel Bill Castner, Booker state director George Helmy, former State Senator/Republican State Chairman Joe Kyrillos; former McGreevey deputy chief of staff Amy Mansue; Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange), and former McGreevey/Codey counselor Eric Schuffler.
Murphy chief counsel Matt Platkin is reportedly not interested in Cammarano’s job. The governor’s chief policy advisor, Kathleen Frangione, also does not want the post although she could emerge as an acting chief of staff if Murphy’s search is not finalized by the time Cammarano leaves.
Current deputy chief of staff Joe Kelley is still in the mix for the post. So is Choose NJ CEO/Murphy transition director Jose Lozano, although his testimony this week before the legislative committee investigating the circumstances that led to the hiring of Al Alvarez left him severely wounded.
Only Murphy can offer someone the chief of staff job.