TRENTON, N.J. – Democrats still control Trenton, but a disappointing statewide showing on Tuesday is deepening already existing wounds within the New Jersey Democrat Party’s power circles.
“Let’s be clear: the Democratic Party in New Jersey had a big day yesterday,” Governor Phil Murphy declared in a Wednesday e-mail blast. “In 2017, voters said they wanted to change the direction of New Jersey, and they reaffirmed that in this election.” The state’s second most powerful elected Democrat (or first, depending upon who you ask) publicly disagreed with the governor.
“Really? It wasn’t a good day. You can spin it anyway you want. We lost,” Senate President Steve Sweeney told NJ.com. “When we have an administration that only talks about raising taxes every day, it’s not helpful.”
Murphy and his allies have been in open warfare with the Norcross/South Jersey Democrat faction (represented by Sweeney, its top Trenton representative in the legislature) for months now. The tensions graduated to civil war when the Murphy faction took aim at tax incentives received by organizations with financial ties to South Jersey Democrats.
The South Jersey Machine arguably took the biggest hit on Tuesday with the loss of one state senator and both assemblymen in LD1 (Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic), but many Democrats are accusing Governor Murphy of hurting the party’s candidates.
In his criticism of Murphy, Senator Sweeney was specifically referring to a Murphy comment that garnered media attention; Murphy said “[i]f you’re a one-issue voter and tax rate is your issue, either a family or a business if that’s the only basis upon which you’re going to make a decision, we’re probably not your state” back in October, drawing derision and/or exasperation from nearly all sectors.
The next challenge: Democrats must defend 11 N.J. House seats in 2020, five of which were carried by Donald Trump in 2016. All but one of the five have attracted interest from strong Republican challengers.