Gov. Phil Murphy declined to say Tuesday whether any of the Democratic legislators up for re-election this year shouldn’t be returned to office.
“I won’t answer that question,” Murphy said, standing next to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin at an unrelated press conference. “I continue to hope we will find common ground. I know why I was elected. I know what brought me to the dance, and I’m hopeful that we can find common ground.”
All 54 of the Assembly seats held by Coughlin’s members are up for re-election, as is State Sen. Bob Andrzejczak’s seat in the upper chamber.
Murphy was asked the same question at a press conference on Sunday. He declined to answer then, saying he could not hear the question.
Tensions spiked between Murphy and legislative leaders in the closing weeks of this year’s budget negotiations.
They stopped talking to one another, with each side instead opting to throw punches at one another through letters or the press.
But, despite Murphy’s declining to say all of Coughlin’s members should keep their seats, the speaker wasn’t worried about the governor’s statements.
“I’m sure the governor is rooting for all of the assembly candidates, the Democratic Assembly candidates to get reelected and looking to help us expand our majority,” Coughlin said following Murphy’s remarks. “I’m confident he’s a good Democrat. He’s the leader of the Demcoratic party. I’m sure he’s rooting for the Democrats.”
New Direction New Jersey, a non-profit issues advocacy group with close ties to Murphy, is sending out daily emails, even after Murphy issued a line-item veto that ended the budget fight on Sunday.
Senate President Steve Sweeney took a swing at Murphy on Sunday, again comparing the state’s governor to President Donald Trump, who on Monday took to Twitter to congratulate state legislators for not passing a millionaire’s tax sought by the governor.
Coughlin has largely avoided the feuds now that a state shutdown is not a possibility for the next 12 months — among the three, he did not issue public comment on Trump’s.
Currently, the speaker’s caucus holds a veto-proof majority in the legislature’s lower chamber. In the Senate, Democrats’ 26 seats fall one short of being enough for an override.
“I’m confident he’ll be supportive of all the Democratic candidates,” Coughlin said.