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Gov. Phil Murphy, right, with State Comptroller-designate Kevin Walsh. Photo courtesy of Twitter.

Murphy names Walsh as state comptroller

Senate confirmation could be tricky

By David Wildstein, January 23 2020 4:27 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy has nominated Kevin Walsh, the executive director of the Fair Share Housing Center, to serve as New Jersey State Comptroller.

Walsh is set to become acting comptroller on Monday as he awaits confirmation by the New Jersey State Senate.

“Kevin has a proven track record of fighting for civil rights and government accountability, regardless of politics or pressure,” Murphy said. “I will ask Kevin to continue to uphold the Comptroller Office’s reputation of demonstrating independence of thought and independence of action on behalf of all New Jerseyans.”

Confirmation might not be an easy process for Walsh, despite his personal popularity among Trenton insiders.  He lives in Camden County and needs sign off from State Sens. Jim Beach (D-Voorhees) and Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington) before the Senate Judiciary Committee considers his nomination.

“I’d be very surprised,” a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the New Jersey Globe about the possibility of a quick confirmation.

One South Jersey Democratic senator applauded the nomination.

“Over the course of his career, Kevin Walsh has been a champion for equal rights and government accountability, “ said State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran). “Kevin’s sound judgement and independent voice in the Comptroller’s Office will help ensure integrity and transparency across all levels of State government. I have known Kevin personally and professionally for many years and I am confident that he will be an effective watchdog for our State.”

POLITICO speculated this week that Murphy wants a “headline-making government watchdog” in the post.

That could become a problem if the comptroller makes his headlines in South Jersey.

The last state comptroller, Philip Degnan, resigned to become a Superior Court Judge.  It was Degnan’s report on the New Jersey Economic Development Authority that triggered an independent probe.

Murphy has learned what other governors also came to discover after a little bit of time in office: that an official who carries the “acting” designation in their title is not really a problem.

“It’s an easy way to get around Senate confirmation and senatorial courtesy,” a former gubernatorial staffer told the Globe.

If Walsh is confirmed, he would serve a six-year term.  If he remains in an acting capacity, he could be replaced in 2022 if Murphy is not re-elected.

The Senate has moved slowly on several Murphy nominations.

Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed state Commissioner of Corrections Marcus Hicks about 20 months after his nomination.

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