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Grewal, with profile rising, may have future in politics

By Nikita Biryukov, July 17 2018 5:40 pm

Six months ago, few outside of Bergen County would recognize the name of Gurbir Grewal, and even some residents there were likely not familiar with the former county prosecutor.

But now, Grewal, who has since become Gov. Phil Murphy’s attorney general, is drawing national headlines for his opposition to some of President Donald Trump’s policies.

Most recently, he’s set his sights on the cap imposed on state and local tax deductions by the Republican tax bill passed late last year.

That legal challenge, which Grewal announced on Tuesday, and others that targeted Trump’s travel ban and sought to protect the DACA program, have pushed Grewal’s name to the forefront of the legal fight between the president’s administrations and the blue states that oppose Trump’s policies, and that shift hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s standing up for the little guy,” said State Sen. Patrick Diegnan. “He’s reflecting the values of our state, and I think he’s looking at our laws in the way they should be looked at – that all men are created equal and should be protected by our laws. So, I think he’s doing a terrific job.”

There’s some question about whether or not Grewal will continue to lead that charge, as little time has passed since former New York Attorney General Andrew Schneiderman resigned from his post following allegations claiming he physically abused at least four women during his tenure as attorney general.

Schneiderman has denied those claims.

Still, Grewal’s actions so far have earned him praise and the high regard of many Trenton Democrats, including Assembly members John McKeon and Joann Downey and former Gov. Richard Codey, who’s now a state senator.

But, it’s not clear what Grewal’s future holds.

“As an AG, he’s pushed a very progressive, liberal message, and it shows in his actions – an anti-Trump message, and anti-Trump agenda as an AG – but where does he go from here? I don’t know,” Codey said. “What issues will he attach to himself? I think we just don’t know.”

It’s also not clear what work Grewal will pursue after his tenure as attorney general. Though, with Murphy only about six months into his first term, it could be a while until he leaves the post.

Grewal has not spoken about any possible aspirations he might have toward a run at elected office, but some Democrats think he would be a good fit.

“I don’t think he’s doing this with an intention to run for public office at some future date, however, if he ever chooses to do so, I think he’s incredibly qualified and would make a tremendous elected official,” Diegnan said.

And, unless Grewal is looking several years into the future, Diegnan’s right.

“I think that is so far down the road that it’s not even being considered by anybody right now,” said Ben Dworkin, a professor of political science at Rowan University. “These kinds of lawsuits will raise the attorney general’s profile, but this is the Phil Murphy administration, and I think we have to assume that Phil Murphy will be running for reelection in three years. I doubt that his attorney general is going to try and take him on.”

It’s also possible that, unlike politicos in the state, average New Jerseyans are unfamiliar with Grewal, let alone his legal challenges.

If that’s the case, it’s unlikely to change barring anything short of a full-throated awareness campaign.

“I think a lot of this is inside stuff that people who aren’t politically connected aren’t really getting, and it’s not on their radar that much,” Downey said. “So, I think it’s going to be up to the rest of us, as the assembly people, the senators – the people who are here – our federal people, our senators and our congress people to be able to talk about that and make sure people understand what we’re doing to help them.”

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