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New Jersey’s Team of Rivals

By David Wildstein, February 16 2018 3:04 am

Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to appoint Jim Johnson to lead the administration’s efforts to get Atlantic City back on its feet, marks a rarely-used “Team of Rivals” tactic of picking former opponents for key positions.  Johnson, a former U.S Undersecretary of the Treasury, finished second in the 2017 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The last governor to offer jobs to primary opponents was Christine Todd Whitman, who appointed former Attorney General Cary Edwards to the State Commission of Investigation and former State Sen. Jim Wallwork to the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

Tom Kean had seven Republican primary opponents and gave one of them a job: Bo Sullivan became the chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

Brendan Byrne gave two of his 1973 primary opponents a spot in his administration: former Assemblywoman Ann Klein became Commissioner of Institutions and Agencies (later renamed Human Services), and former State Sen. Ralph DeRose became a Waterfront commissioner.  DeRose later quit and became one of the ten Democrats to challenge Byrne in the primary.  None of them got placed in his second term.

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