Gov. Phil Murphy sought to assuage New Jersey voters concerned that he was looking use his position to catapult himself into national politics on Thursday.
“I can absolutely allay any fears … My focus is 100% on New Jersey,” Murphy said at an unrelated press conference. “I’ve read the lessons–good, bad and otherwise– of other folks who tried to do other things other than focus on New Jersey. It’s of no interest to me. I have no appetite for it.”
A Monmouth University poll conducted earlier this month found 49% of the state’s residents believed the governor was more concerned with his political future than he was with governing the state.
A third, 33%, said he was more concerned with the latter pursuit.
Murphy’s predecessor, Gov. Chris Christie, spent much of his second term in office seeking the Republican presidential nod. That pursuit frequently took him out of state and put then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno at the head of New Jersey’s government.
Murphy is not without a national role. Next year, he will take head of the Democratic Governors Association.
“The DGA matters because it has very good positive blowback into New Jersey. It allows us to get our story out more effectively, and when our story’s out, that means there’s more interest in New Jersey, and that’s a good thing,” Murphy said. “Secondly, you can always learn something from other folks — particularly, in my case, likeminded Democratic governors.”
Christie was chairman of the Republican Governors Association while in office and used his victories there to boost his national profile.
Murphy will get a similar opportunity next year, when 11 governorships come up to a vote. Seven of those are held by Republicans.
Still, he said he doesn’t intend to use a heightened profile in the same way Christie did.
“I promise you, I will be on guard on the bridge of the New Jersey ship, I hope, for a lot more time to come,” Murphy said.