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Murphy will face new challenges in his second term, Eagleton Institute of Politics expert says

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J) is likely to continue advocating for issues such as gun control legislation and climate change during his second term, Eagleton Institute of Politics expert says. – Photo by David Wildstein / Twitter

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) is the first Democratic governor to be reelected in New Jersey since 1977, beating his Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by a margin of approximately 85,000 votes, as previously reported by The Daily Targum.

Murphy will likely continue to push for the issues that he advocated for during his first term, including gun control legislation, climate change and abortion policies, according to John Weingart, associate director of the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics.

He said he expects Murphy to put forth more comprehensive efforts to make progress on these issues during his next four years in office. He also said he is particularly curious as to what Murphy will do about state taxes and how he will address the state’s fiscal structure.

Weingart said these issues have been considered vital to reform on all sides of the political spectrum for the past several decades.

“It's hard, just economically, to figure out how to (address state fiscal structure) in a way that it's going to be workable, and it's hard ... to then figure out politically how you make that happen,” he said. “Having a ... Democratic governor in his second term is something that we haven't had in New Jersey really since the last time the state fiscal structure got significantly changed in the income tax burdens.”

Weingart also said he thinks Murphy should address the stability of politics, in terms of whether he and other legislators can develop civil and respectful attitudes while discussing issues on which they disagree.

Murphy may face challenges in working with new leadership in the state legislature, Weingart said, after State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) was defeated this past election by a Republican challenger. This unanticipated change of leadership makes it difficult to discern how Murphy’s relationship with the state’s legislative body will progress during his second term, he said.

The results of the recent November election demonstrated Republicans making major gains throughout the state and nationwide, Weingart said. If this trend continues during the 2023 State Assembly election, he said Murphy may encounter difficulty working with the legislature to pass more liberal policies.

“It could be an obstacle to Democratic legislators hoping for an easy pass to reelection and, therefore, also an obstacle to the governor and legislators,” Weingart said. “They want to have some distance ... between their votes that were perceived as progressive or liberal policies in some areas.”

He said there is still uncertainty in terms of the exact direction that Murphy’s leadership will take in the next four years as the outcomes of his first term were determined by the contextual factors occurring at the time. Murphy spent the first part of his term learning the ins and outs of working in Trenton and the second half attending to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Murphy’s upcoming four years in office will be defined by how he finds ways to advocate for different issues, such as access to voting, Weingart said. An issue that is particularly due for reform, he said, is the state’s civil service structure and regulations that discourage young people from working in government.

“The state civil service structure and regulations have been an obstacle that has made it more difficult to attract young, idealistic, bright people into government service,” Weingart said. “A second-term governor of either party, particularly a Democrat, in this case, might want to try to change that — to try to improve that situation.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated the margin between the candidates was 20,000 votes.

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