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Deb Cornavaca. (Photo: Office of the Governor).

Top Murphy aide headed to NJEA

Deb Cornavaca leaving to head government relations for teacher union

By David Wildstein, May 17 2022 3:01 pm

Deborah Cornavaca will depart her post as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Phil Murphy later this month to become the new director of government relations for the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest public employee union.

“For the past four years, Deb Cornavaca has served as an integral member of my senior team, leading our outreach efforts to houses of worship, unions, advocacy groups, and community leaders, among others,” Murphy said in a statement released by the NJEA.

Steve Swetsky, the NJEA executive director, said that Cornavaca will being “a deep knowledge of both state government and of the full range of policy issues that are most important to New Jersey’s public school employees.”

“Her proven ability to build effective policy-based coalitions, combined with her understanding of NJEA’s mission, makes her uniquely qualified to take on this challenge,” Swetsky said.

It’s not unusual for members of the governor’s senior staff to depart after the first term, and Murphy has already seen some departures.

Deputy chief of staff Mike DeLamater left to join the campaign last year and has now opened his own lobbying and political consulting firm.  Senior advisor Dan Bryan left to work for multiple clients, including Phil and Tammy Murphy’s policy non-profit and political action committee.  Mahen Gunaratna, the governor’s communications director since 2018, is departing next month to become the chief public affairs officer and senior vice president of Everytown for Gun Safety, along with  their two grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action.

Murphy has not yet picked a replacement for Cornavaca.

“The relationships she helped forge, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, were instrumental in advancing our agenda for a stronger and fairer New Jersey,” Murphy said.  “Although I’m sad to see her leave, I know she will continue doing impactful work advocating for our students, teachers, and educational support professionals at the New Jersey Education Association.”

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