Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli stepped up his criticism of Gov. Phil Murphy over the last few days, even using an Internet meme that shows “King Murphy” wearing a crown and holding a scepter — a metaphor the GOP is using to critique of the governor’s record-setting number of executive order edicts.
Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman, is using social media to mark his territory now on disagreements with Murphy, who is riding a 71% approval rating for his handling of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
“Let’s remember who Governor Murphy was saying he ‘couldn’t frankly care’ about – people, residents, begging him to open up a small and safe sector of our economy,” Ciattarelli. “That’s who the Governor was talking about, that’s who he ‘couldn’t frankly care’ about. New Jersey deserves better.”
As one of the first Republicans to openly object to Murphy’s decision to close state and county parks, Ciattarelli got a bit sarcastic in his reaction to the governor’s announcement that parks would reopen on Saturday.
“Glad to hear that Governor feels we citizens have ‘earned his trust’ to walk in state parks,” Ciattarelli said on Twitter. “Maybe now he can start to earn ours by appointing someone from the Jersey Shore and small business communities to his panel on re-opening our economy.
It as an influential Democrat who initially started referring to Murphy as a monarch.
“He thinks he’s the King of England,” Democratic powerbroker George E. Norcross III told the Star-Ledger almost one year ago.
State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford) also called accused Murphy of acting like a potentate.
“We have a governor, and not a king,” Doherty said in blasting the governor for an executive order that allows tenants to use apply security deposits for toward their rent.
According to Doherty, the State Constitution specifically prohibits changing the terms of a private contract.
In April, Murphy set a record for the greatest number of executive orders issued in a month with 23. The record had belonged to Gov. Chris Christie, who signed 11 executive orders in October 2012 in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville) announced on Thursday that he was introducing legislation to create a level of checks and balances over a New Jersey governor’s ability to use powers initially approved in 1942 to give Gov. Charles Edison the ability to make decisions during World War II.
“The governor’s ability to unilaterally impose restrictions on the freedoms of our citizens cannot go unchecked,” Bergen said. “One person with near absolute power is dangerous.”
Ciattarelli has also called out Murphy for his appointments to the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Rescue Commission.
“With all due respect to… (his) ‘blue ribbon panel, this is political window dressing, including people who don’t even live in new Jersey,” Ciattarelli stated. “We need reps from New Jersey’s economic development and business advocacy community, (the) Jersey Shore and Building Trades (unions). Time to get serious about restarting New Jersey’s economy.”
Republicans have sharply attacked the parks closure portion of Murphy’s plan to slow the spread of COVID-19, despite a Monmouth Poll that showed 70% of New Jerseyans agreed with the decision, including 55% of Republicans.
“Listen, we get it. Shelter in place and safe social distancing are keys to flattening the curve,” Ciattarelli said in an online video. “So is mental health. Is there no way for people to enjoy passive recreation while steadfastly observing safe social distancing?”
Murphy said on Thursday that the “upcoming weekend will be a crucial test.”
“We are placing tremendous trust in you to keep up with your social distancing,” he stated. “But, if we see this weekend what we saw that first weekend in April, I will not hesitate to reverse course and close our parks again.”
Despite Murphy’s 92% approvals among Democrats, his tone on being ready to close parks again if necessary didn’t sit well with one openly progressive political commentator.
“Oh god, I am not 12 and you are not my fucking dad,” said Amy Wilson, a Jersey City activist and frequent New Jersey Globe contributor. “I know let me get people to comply with social distancing by patronizing them and treating them like children. Ugh, this is so frustrating and crappy.”