Gov. Phil Murphy has no plans to make a quick endorsement of another presidential candidate, clearing the way for Democratic county chairs to make their own decisions about awarding organization lines for the New Jersey Democratic primary in June.
“The Governor will not be endorsing another presidential candidate in the very near future, and he looks forward to a vibrant discussion among the remaining candidates,” said Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.
The presidential campaign in New Jersey became wide open on Monday following Cory Booker’s withdrawal from the race.
Booker had New Jersey locked up, with the endorsements of Murphy, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, all 21 Democratic county chairs, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, all 10 Democratic House members, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.
“Governor Murphy was thrilled to support Senator Booker in his presidential run, and remains proud of the strong campaign the Senator ran,” Swibinski said. “While he remains fully committed to defeating Donald Trump this November, Governor Murphy’s overwhelming focus continues to be on rebuilding the middle class here in New Jersey.”
Several candidates have already reached out to Murphy, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, seeking his support, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
On Tuesday, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) became the first major New Jersey Democrat to endorse another candidate, announcing his support of Joe Biden.
For now, this allows Murphy to avoid having to choose between Biden, a longtime close friend, and a progressive candidate that appeals to his own wing of the New Jersey Democratic Party.
This is good news for Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg and other Democrats who are now free to begin organizing delegate slates in New Jersey and seeking organization lines at conventions and screening committees – some counties allow the party chair to make the call — without Murphy putting his thumb on the scale.
Convention season begins next month.
South Jersey Democrats are said to be leaning heavily to Biden as well, several sources confirmed over the last few days.
Bloomberg has hired political consultant Michael Muller to run his New Jersey organization, and Axel Owen, who was the state party political director under Murphy, to help him.
Murphy will be the first governor to stay out of the presidential race in 28 years.