On March 4, 2020- just before the Covid-19 outbreak started in earnest- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was at a New York City hospital where he underwent major surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his kidney.
“Over 50,000 New Jerseyans will hear the words ‘you have cancer’ this year, so I’m far from alone here,” said Gov. Murphy, 62, of his diagnosis and surgery. “It’s a situation that far too many families find themselves in. That’s why we’re fighting for them each and every day.”
After undergoing hours of surgery, Murphy had originally planned to spend the following weeks recovering at home. The global health crisis upended these plans almost immediately. Only hours after his surgery successfully concluded, New Jersey announced its first likely case of the novel coronavirus.
The governor skipped his restful recovery and instead became a daily presence in the lives of the residents of New Jersey, where he has faced the biggest challenge of his political career thus far.
Gov. Murphy has led by example throughout the entire crisis, ostensibly maintaining appropriate distances in public and meticulously observing the recommendations of public health experts. Murphy’s was an especially poignant example as he had so recently been added to the ranks of those facing the prospect of Covid-19 with compromised immune systems.
Few governors faced this crisis with preexisting conditions, like Gov. Murphy. While protecting his own personal survival, he was simultaneously forced to confront the unknown challenges of a virus still poorly understood by the medical and scientific communities.
After the first cases of Covid-19 appeared in New Jersey, Murphy moved into swift action, implementing a series of steps to mitigate the virus spread.
Gov. Murphy deployed the National Guard early to help New Jersey nursing homes struggling to care for a large number of patients suffering from Covid-19. The governor’s office has telegraphed every step of the winding way through Covid-19, keeping up regular daily briefings to the press and reassuring a nervous public.
Yesterday, Gov. Murphy issued an executive order lifting the “Stay-at-Home” order in New Jersey. At the same time, Murphy urged Garden State residents to continue to practice social distancing and good sense.
Since the coronavirus hit its peak in New Jersey in April, “progress has been undeniable,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at his May 12 press briefing. It is no surprise that Gov. Murphy has received bipartisan support and praise for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Murphy is a dedicated individual. He took particular charge over the whole COVID-19 situation and did a great job on it.” — Republican Mayor John Glidden. Borough of Closter, NJ.
Gov. Murphy has spoken directly to President Trump on various occasions, and the president has publicly praised the governor. “Governor Murphy of New Jersey is a terrific guy and, frankly, he wants — you know, he’s got a pretty hot spot right there,” President Trump said.
A History of Dedicated Public Service
Gov. Murphy’s resume of elected and appointed offices has prepared him to face the unique challenges of Covid-19.
He was elected as the 56th and current Democratic governor of New Jersey in 2017, succeeding Gov. Chris Christie. Before his assuming his role in office, Governor Murphy already had a long history of involvement in civic life and philanthropy.
In 2009, Murphy answered former President Obama’s call to serve as U.S. Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following his confirmation from the Senate, he served until 2013.
Nationally, he has served as New Jersey’s sole representative on the board of the NAACP, the world’s oldest civil rights organization, and as Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2006 to 2009. The Governor has also led national and state task forces on education and public employee pensions and benefits.
Gov. Murphy helped start the New Start Career Network, which provides free and personalized assistance to New Jersey residents aged 45 and over, who have been unemployed for six months or more. Over 1,000 long-term unemployed citizens have signed-up after less than a year, leading then President Obama’s Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to call the network a “fantastic” model.
The state of New Jersey, under Murphy’s leadership, is emerging as a leader in combating climate change, through the deployment of offshore-wind energy technologies and banning offshore fossil-fuel exploration and drilling, among other measures to spur growth in the clean and renewable energy sectors.
“To get New Jersey right, we must both grow our economy and make it fair. Investing in clean energy does both. We can rebuild our middle class, combat climate change, and protect our environment by restoring New Jersey’s place as a leader in the green economy. Plain and simple, we can both do good and do well.” — Gov. Phil Murphy
Gov. Murphy’s background in the business world has also been very beneficial for the state of New Jersey.
In 2018, Murphy led a seven-day, economic mission trip to India to strengthen economic ties with one of New Jersey’s largest trade and investment partners, cultivate international investment opportunities, and deepen cultural and educational ties between New Jersey and India.
“As India’s role as one of our key partners continues to expand, we want to make sure we maximize the potential of our economic relationship,” said Murphy. “I am excited to make the case for New Jersey as a leading investment choice for Indian companies, creating lasting partnerships and good jobs for our residents. We are proud to be the home of one of America’s most deeply-rooted Indian American communities, and growing our economic partnership will only strengthen those ties.”
A month later, Gov. Murphy embarked on a nine-day economic mission to Germany and Israel in October of 2018. The state of New Jersey, under Murphy’s leadership, is focused on cultivating international investment opportunities in New Jersey, as well as deepening economic, cultural, and political ties between New Jersey and the two nations.
A prominent Indian-American, NJ resident and well known developer, Hemant Mehta, said “I think it was very wise of him to choose the two best friends, India and Israel, for his trip, giving necessary homage to the largest democracy in the world and the growing Indian community in the state of New Jersey.”
Mehta emphasized how Governor Murphy looks at issues at the macro level but also pays extreme attention to the micro level before making decisions for the benefit of all New Jersey Residents. His comments were reiterated by prominent Indian-American businessman Raj Patel among others.
“I think he’s extraordinary, he’s a person of tremendous sensitivity and concern, which is important in leadership. He’s concerned about governance on the macro scale but ultimately focuses on delivering his messages to the concerns of the individual. He listens attentively to his advisers, and all of the facts before making decisions. If you look at all of his decisions, they are always based on moral concern and sensitivity. I think he has a little Abraham Lincoln in him and a strong capacity for growth.” — Rabbi Genack, Orthodox Union Kosher Division.
Most recently, Gov. Murphy been swift to respond to the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests which have followed.
“In New Jersey I am incredibly grateful to say that we have had literally hundreds of protests overwhelmingly, 99 plus percent peaceful and done exactly in the spirit that you would hope. I speak as a Governor and former national board member of the NAACP. The state of racism deadly- sadly- alive and well, and this is the 105th century since slavery came to our shores. People are angry, outraged and they will not take it anymore.” — Gov. Phil Murphy, C-SPAN. June 9, 2020.
While immediately responsive to the calls for justice and law enforcement reform, and empathetic in his response to the legitimate grievances of New Jersey’s African-American communities, Gov. Murphy has still managed to be measured in his response.
“The only thing I would say about ‘defund’; it is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. If you are in year 401 of slavery and racism, this is complicated. The objective has to be that the end point that we have relations between law enforcement and communities that work and are respectful, that are deeply engaged and look out for the safety and security of everybody.” — Gov. Phil Murphy
Gov. Murphy has already proven himself committed to holding law enforcement officers involved in shootings responsible for their conduct. In New Jersey, such cases are now required to be adjudicated and investigated by government bodies independent of the police department.
“I think it is a mosaic that needs to be properly put together, and the anger and outrage are completely understandable, and its high-time for action.” — Gov. Phil Murphy
Governor Murphy has demonstrated an excellent performance as the Governor of New Jersey during these challenging times, and the DNC should be ready to recognize his leadership abilities for the National Stage.
(Contributing journalist, Allegra Nokaj) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)