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Gov. Phil Murphy says his messaging to voters in the mid-term elections was spot on and that Democrats were playing in more places than Republicans.
“I love our message,” Murphy said. “It’s not just a message, it’s the fact of how we’re governing.”
In an interview with the New Jersey Globe, Murphy said he wishes Democrats had won more races than it did in an election where Republicans swept three legislative seats in the 1st district and Democrats were unable to oust any GOP legislators.
“I’m a pig. I want to bat a thousand. I want to win. I’m incredibly competitive,” Murphy said. “Anything we don’t win, as the titular head of the party, hurts.”
But, Murphy notes, Democrats were competing in many more races than the Republicans this year.
“Whether we win or not, we’re playing on a much wider field that the other guys,” Murphy told the Globe. “They’re spiking the football in a smaller end zone.”
Under the current legislative map that was drawn in 2011, Democrats have picked up seats in districts that were intended to be held by Republicans.
“I remember coming back from Germany six years ago. We had barely won 38. We were shut out of 16. We were shut out of 11,” said Murphy. “All three of those are now solid blue, validated again yesterday.”
He said that the ability of Democrats to even play in districts like the 21st and 25th, where he campaigned over the last few days, was a big deal.
The governor believes that some of those races are winnable over time.
“You don’t necessarily get the win,” he said. “You’ve got to be dogged and determined and build it brick by brick.”
He pointed to Somerset County Sheriff-elect Darrin Russo as an example. Russo won 49% against a five-term incumbent in 2016, ran again, and won.
Democratic polling obtained by the Globe showed several Republican incumbents on the verge of losing, and several Democrats suggested that $2 million worth of TV ads by a non-profit, Murphy-allied group might have scared some voters away.
But the governor dismissed those critics, arguing that the 2019 election “was at many levels a big day for the Democratic Party.”
According to Murphy, the mid-term elections aren’t just about legislative races – he pointed to successes in Somerset and Burlington counties, and new Democratic mayors in Bergenfield, Dover and Hamilton.
There could have been more wins, Murphy said, but he argues that his brand of messaging was the right way to go.
“Do I wish we had won all of them and swept? You betcha. Let there be no doubt about that,” Murphy told the Globe. “But there’s no question we had the right message. We’re playing on a broader field than they are.”
Murphy views his agenda as completely consistent with what voters want to hear, despite some criticism from Democrats that he should stop reminder voters that he’s a progressive.
“I am completely comfortable with the stronger, fairer, if you believe in public education funding, fixing NJ Transit, affordable health care, expanding pre-K, equal pay, minimum wage, apprenticeship programs,” Murphy said. “Those are kitchen table issues. Those resonate.”
Asked whether New Jersey voters are over his predecessor, Chris Christie, and no longer cared whether Republican legislators enabled his polices, Murphy said he doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the former governor.
He did say that he lives with the effect of the Christie administration every day.
“His administration wrecked New Jersey Transit, so we’re fixing it,” said Murphy. “I love where we’re headed, but that legacy that he left continues to be with us.”