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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Helmy, Mansue on short list for Murphy chief of staff

Cammarano set to leave post this month

By David Wildstein, January 10 2019 11:12 am

Cory Booker’s top New Jersey staffer and Jim McGreevey’s former deputy chief of staff have emerged as possible candidates to become Gov. Phil Murphy’s new chief of staff, according to sources familiar with Murphy’s selection process.

George Helmy, Booker’s state director, and Amy Mansue, who is now the southern region president of RWJBarnabas Health, are both in the mix to replace Peter Cammarano when he leaves his post this month.

Jose Lozano, the president of Choose New Jersey and Murphy’s transition chairman, continues to be a potential candidate for the post, although his testimony earlier this week before a legislative committee investigating the hiring Al Alvarez likely puts a damper on his immediate prospects.  

Helmy and Mansue would bring strong experience and relationships to the table that might help the governor build alliances with state Democratic leaders after a year-long feud.  They both have private sector experience.

Helmy worked for U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg before becoming Booker’s deputy chief of staff in the U.S Senate in 2014 and his state director in 2016.  He has relationships with legislator and county chairs and is viewed as a strong manager.

It’s not clear whether the timing is right for Helmy, who has a seat at the table in the planning of Booker’s fledgling campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.  If Murphy were to offer him the job, he would need to figure out if Booker’s national agenda would be better served with Helmy as chief of staff to the governor — who becomes chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association next year — or as an advisor on a Booker for president campaign.

Manuse would bring Murphy more than 30 years of experience that started as a congressional staffer working for Rep. Jim Florio.  She worked on Florio’s staff when he became governor and later served as deputy commissioner of Human Services and as deputy chief of staff to McGreevey.  She has been in the private sector since then, as president of Children’s Specialized Hospital Chief Strategy Officer, of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System, and now in her RWJBarnabas post.

Sources have suggested that Murphy would like to name a woman to the post, especially as his administration navigates the aftermath of the Alvarez scandal.

Despite the imminent vacancy — Cammarano has reportedly already checked out and is due to depart after the governor’s budget address this month — Murphy has been in no great hurry to fill the post.

There continues to be speculation that Kathleen Frangione, Murphy’s chief policy advisor, will be named acting chief of staff.  Frangione, a former aide to U.S. Senator John Kerry, has told friends she does not want the job.

Commissioner of Human Services Carole Johnson, a former Obama White House staffer, could also be in the mix for the chief of staff post, sources told the New Jersey Globe.

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