In Newark, Obama urges voters to stick with Murphy
Former president stumps for Murphy in closing days of governor’s race
Former President Barack Obama with Gov. Phil Murphy at an early voting rally in Newark on Oct. 23. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)
Former President Barack Obama joined Gov. Phil Murphy and a bevy of Essex County elected officials in Newark Saturday to urge Democrats to avoid the apathy that they blame for Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency.
Obama praised the polices — including a $15 minimum wage, a millionaire’s tax, and funding for Planned Parenthood, among others — enacted under Murphy, a Democrat seeking a second term next month.
“That track record matters because it tells you he doesn’t just talk the talk. It tells you he walks the walk, and that record matters because the work we need to do is too important to leave to chance,” the former president said to a crowd of more than 500 in a chilly Weequahic Park.
Obama warned the crowd against political opportunists, identifying Murphy’s Republican opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, as one.
“As president, I couldn’t just do the expedient thing or even the popular thing because there were some things I thought that were important enough I had to do what I thought was right,” Obama said. “If somebody’s not willing to do that, if they’re willing to say anything or do anything to get elected, then they do not deserve the highest office in New Jersey.”
Ciattarelli has drawn fire from his Democratic opponent for apparent shifts in his platform. Though Ciattarelli ran as a moderate in the primary, his tone moved to the right after he defeated two fervently pro-Trump candidates. Ciattarelli has drifted back toward the center in the last weeks of the race.
In a bid to energize the crowd, Obama warned that a Ciattarelli governorship would undo Murphy’s policies.
“Phil and Democrats everywhere are focused on you and how can we help you. What’s Phil’s opponent focused on? He wants to go back,” Obama said. “That minimum wage increase that Phil signed, he’ll stop it. The work Phil did to fund public schools? He wants to take that money away.”
Much of the legislation passed under Murphy would likely remain under a Republican governor. Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and there are too few competitive races in this heavily blue state to hand the GOP back control of either chamber this year.
Obama — who earlier Saturday stumped for Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s bid for a second term as governor — is the latest in a series of Democratic figures with national profiles to boost Murphy in the final days of his re-election bid.
First Lady Jill Biden joined Murphy at a campaign stop on Oct. 15, and President Joe Biden is set to visit the Garden State next week in appearances expected to champion a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a separate spending bill stalled in Congress.
Murphy has ties to both Biden and Obama. He served as finance chair for the Democratic National Committee during the 2008 presidential election, and the former president tapped him as his ambassador to Germany.
In response to Murphy’s appearance with Obama, the Republican State Committee launched an attack over the governor’s tenure in Berlin, highlighting a U.S. State Department Inspector General report that found Murphy’s office was slow to respond to claims of harassment. A follow-up report later found those issues had largely been quelled.
Ciattarelli received some national aid of his own this week when Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel joined him at a Medford campaign stop.
Saturday’s rally coincided with the first day of early in-person voting in New Jersey, a new practice Murphy signed into law in March.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10), and actor Kal Penn, who served on White House staff in the Obama administration, also spoke at the rally.
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