Brendan Gill has walked back comments he made to The (Bergen) Record columnist Charles Stile suggesting that a non-profit group formed to advance Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda was going to target Democratic legislators with online and television ads.
Stile reported that Gill told him that New Direction New Jersey was going to launch a campaign next month to mobilize public support and “build pressure on resistant lawmakers.” Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin interpreted those comments as a threat against their caucuses.
“New Direction New Jersey is focused on a positive mission of building a stronger and fairer New Jersey. Any indication of exerting negative pressure on legislators was a mischaracterization on my part,” Gill said in a statement released this afternoon.
Coughlin called on Murphy to disavow Gill’s remarks, and Sweeney said he was unafraid of Gill’s campaign to advocate for a tax increase.
Gill, an Essex County freeholder, managed Murphy’s campaign for governor. A few weeks after the election, he said he would start a 501(c)(4) to boost public support for the new governor. Two of Murphy’s media consultants, Steve DeMicco and Brad Lawrence, are also part of the effort.
“Trying to pressure our members would be an unfortunate decision. Our caucus is focused on crafting a budget that represents the best interests of the taxpayers and no amount of threats will deter us from doing what we believe to be in the best interest of New Jersey’s families,” Coughlin said earlier today “I would strongly advise the administration to distance itself from these remarks and these tactics.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney said he’s wasn’t worried about the group pushing members of his caucus.
“A campaign to raise taxes? Bring it on,” Sweeney said. “Standing for taxpayers is first and foremost our job. The Senate will always fight for the working families of this state, and no amount of pressure will change that.”