As Gov. Chris Christie’s final term in office winds down, the race to determine his successor is well under way. The New Jersey Democratic party looks to retake control of the governor’s mansion after almost 7 years of Republicans holding the position. The Democrat’s chance of winning in the fall are high since the last embattled Republican governor has had dismal approval ratings due to the various scandals entangling high-ranking officials in his administration. Several potential candidates have announced their intentions to run for the nomination of the Democratic party. Among the most notable names in the group is Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
New Jersey Senator Sweeney is the highest ranking democrat in the state and was taken to be a serious contender for the gubernatorial election. Much to the surprise of many, Senator Sweeney has announced that he will not be seeking the democratic nomination for governor last Thursday. With Sweeney out of the race, former ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, Phil Murphy has become the frontrunner for the Democratic Party. Murphy has racked up dozens of endorsements, including from Democratic chairs of Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson counties.
With the overwhelming amount of support in the populous northern counties, Sweeney would have had a difficult time winning the nomination. Not only does former ambassador Murphy have the support of many Democratic establishment members but also has millions of dollars to call upon once the campaign officially begins. Once all of Murphy’s advantages became clear Senator Sweeney announced that he would be dropping out of the race. Sweeney had the following to say about the gubernatorial race, “However, in the last few days it has become clear that Phil Murphy has been able to secure substantial support from Democratic and community leaders that would make my bid all but impossible.”
Afterward, Sweeney announced that he would support Murphy in seeking the office of governor. Sweeney’s concession has cleared the path for Murphy’s taking of the democratic nomination and a pivot towards the general election next fall. While Murphy has broken out as the frontrunner, the actual voting will not occur until next year. With over seven months until New Jersey Democrats cast their votes, other potential names have been floated to compete against former ambassador Murphy. Two of Murphy’s possible opponent include State Senator Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski. Assemblyman Wisniewski has voiced his interest in running and has set up an exploratory committee to test the waters. State Senator Lesniak has stated that if he ran, his campaign would focus on Murphy’s Wall Street connection. Regardless of whether either man decides to have their names on the ballot, the fight to decide the who controls the executive office in the fall is sure to be a contentious one.