Gov. Phil Murphy has endorsed two Camden County legislators with close ties to George Norcross against progressive challengers in next week’s Democratic primary for State Assembly.
Murphy’s endorsement of Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees) and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Cherry Hill) comes one week before more than 80 candidates on a rival ticket backed by South Jersey Progressive Democrats take on candidates running with the support of the Norcross-led Camden County Democratic machine.
“I am writing this letter to officially offer my heartfelt and sincere endorsement for your re-election,” Murphy wrote in separate but identical letters to Greenwald and Lampitt obtained by the New Jersey Globe. “I pledge to do whatever is in my power to ensure that voters in your district understand how crucial it is that we have Assembly members with a commitment to an agenda that puts middle class and working families first.”
Murphy’s decision to side with Norcross-allied candidates is a deflating moment for a group of activists already lacking the financial resources to mount a serious threat to the organization despite a focus on tax incentives awarded by the Economic Development Authority.
Danie Moss-Velasco, a college professor taking on Greenwald and Lampitt in the 6th district, said she was disappointed by the endorsement.
“I would have to have a conversation with Governor Murphy in person to hear him define what a progressive is,” Moss-Velasco told the Globe. “Phil Murphy is a Democrat, but he’s also a businessman. If you’re just looking to continue business as usual, you’re not a progressive.”
Murphy said in his endorsement letter that “none of that progress could have been made without willing partners in the state legislature who have worked side by side with me to deliver progressive change.”
“All of our greatest accomplishments, from raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, to enacting earned sick leave, to offering tuition-free community college and much more, could not have happened without a progressive vision from Democratic members of the New Jersey General Assembly,” the governor wrote to Greenwald and Lampitt.
The governor told Greenwald and Lampitt that he “would like to personally thank you for your support, now and in the future, for our shared Democratic values.”
“Your partnership and commitment will be essential in the days ahead, and if there is anything you or your campaign need I ask you please do not hesitate to reach out,” Murphy said.
Rena Margulis, who is running on the progressive ticket for Camden County Clerk, said she did not know Murphy was going to endorse Greenwald and Lampitt.
“I have nothing to say about that,” Margulis told the Globe.
The South Jersey Progressive Democrats slates also includes a candidate for Camden County freeholder, an Assembly candidate in the 8th district, and candidates for municipal office and county committee.
One supporter of the governor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggested that Murphy may be extending an olive branch to South Jersey legislators from whom he has been largely estranged.
Moss-Velasco pushed back on the idea that the race is unwinnable, especially with the titular head of the New Jersey progressive movement now backing her opponents.
“I wouldn’t be wasting my time if I didn’t think there was a chance,” she said. “If nobody makes the effort, it would never be possible.”