Drumthwacket will have a new resident if governor-elect Phil Murphy decides to live there. But the traditional governor’s residence in Princeton is not Murphy’s only connection to the Route 1 corridor. The Democratic politician has included a lengthy roster of central New Jersey residents and leaders in his transition team, including many who will be familiar to readers of U.S. 1.
Murphy, elected by a 14-point margin over Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, has not publicly said whether he will inhabit Drumthwacket, the Stockton Street mansion. If he does, he will be the first governor to call it home since Jon Corzine lived there part-time from 2006 to 2010.
Despite his handy victory, Murphy may be something of a cipher to many voters, since the off-year election attracted little attention and low voter turnout.
Murphy, a 60-year-old Red Bank resident with four children, earned his fortune as a Goldman Sachs banker and was ambassador to Germany under President Obama. He was born in Needham, Massachusetts, where his mother was a secretary and his father did odd jobs such as running a liquor store and being a pallbearer.
He emphasized his blue-collar roots during the election, saying that his desire to provide for his family is what led him to his career as an investment banker. He has told reporters he put himself through college on part-time jobs and student loans, graduating from Harvard in 1979 with a degree in economics.
He began working at Goldman Sachs as an intern in 1982 and was hired full time in 1983 after graduating from Wharton with an MBA.
Murphy’s time at Goldman gave him the wealth that would eventually enable him to become a major Democratic donor in New Jersey and set him on the path to the governorship. Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, estimated that by the time Murphy left the bank in 2009, his stake in the company was worth $50 million. Many writers have noted that this was a somewhat incongruous career path for the chosen candidate of an increasingly populist party. After all, Goldman has become symbolic of the mortgage crisis, Wall Street greed, and white collar impunity.
Before Murphy, Goldman Sachs was 0 for 1 in producing popular New Jersey governors. Fellow Goldman executive Corzine’s approval ratings tanked into the 30s after he proposed a scheme to privatize the state’s toll roads. He went on to lose his re-election bid to Chris Christie in a landslide.
According to a profile in the New York Times, Murphy didn’t take long to rise through the ranks at Goldman after joining and was quickly promoted to head of Goldman Sachs Germany in Frankfurt, where he assembled a team of bankers, insisting they all learn German. He landed a major client: Deutsche Telekom, and a spot on the bank’s managing committee.
He was then sent to Hong Kong, where he was president of Goldman Sachs Asia. In this role he landed another major deal: $4.2 billion underwriting the IPO of China Telecom. The Times says Murphy also played a role in the launch of PetroChina, a state-owned oil company, which fell short of projections.
How will the Goldman experience apply to New Jersey? “I see that this is a state in crisis and the economy is broken,” he told the Times. “I think there are things that I learned while I was there that actually matter and are applicable to what we need to do in the state.”
While still working at Goldman, Murphy became a major Democratic fundraiser and was national finance chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2006 through 2009, helping to put Obama in the White House. Once elected, Obama made Murphy ambassador to Germany.
His tenure as ambassador was marred by a tiff with his host country, caused by the Wikileaks exposure of U.S. diplomatic cables in which some of Murphy’s staff called German chancellor Angela Merkel “insecure” and criticized the foreign minister. Murphy refused to apologize for his staff’s blunt assessments.
As a politician, Murphy is a progressive Democrat. In a speech made after winning the gubernatorial race, Murphy promised to raise taxes on millionaires, fully fund public education, and fund transit and women’s healthcare. He also said he intended to pass gun control legislation and legalize marijuana.
Murphy’s transition team includes many central New Jersey luminaries:
Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future, is on the Urban and Regional Growth committee. Kasabach (U.S. 1, October 14, 2009) is head of the Trenton-based research and policy advocacy group. A Trenton native, he has a bachelor’s and MBA from Penn and previously worked in the private sector for Arthur Andersen and has taught graduate courses at various universities including Princeton. His group has promoted consolidation of municipalities and a regional approach to planning.
Doug Palmer, former mayor of Trenton and current resident of Princeton, is on the budget committee. Palmer, a graduate of Hampton University, became Trenton’s first black mayor in 1990 and held the position until 2010, when he decided against seeking re-election. The Mercer County arena and the Trenton Thunder ballpark were both built during his tenure. He also reformed the police and fire departments. After leaving office he moved to Yardley, and then to Princeton in 2014. He is married to Christina Foglio-Palmer, an affordable housing developer and president of nursing home operator CareOne.
Paul Josephson, a lawyer and Princeton resident, is a senior advisor to Murphy’s transition committee, after having served as counsel for his campaign. Josephson works for Duane Morris, a Cherry Hill firm, and was previously director of the division of law for the state Attorney General’s office and chief counsel under Governor Jim McGreevey. After leaving the AG’s office, he advised the state on litigation.
Debra L. Wentz, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, is on the Healthcare committee. The NJAMHAA, an advocacy group based on Quakerbridge Road in Hamilton, represents mental healthcare providers and patients. Wentz holds two doctorate degrees, one in French and one in English, from the University of Paris and the University of Connecticut. She also has an MBA from Wharton and is a graduate of Goucher College in Maryland. She has appeared on the Today Show and many other media outlets to discuss mental health.
Jarrod Grasso, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Realtors, based in Trenton, is on the Housing committee. Grasso, who recently moved his organization from Edison to Hamilton Avenue in Trenton (U.S. 1, May 10, 2017) was a constituent service provider for Congressman Chris Smith before becoming a lobbyist for realtors in 1999.
He has advocated against the federal government eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, as the tax plan recently passed in Congress does. “In a high-cost state like New Jersey, it would have a negative effect on property values,” Grasso told U.S. 1. “Think about a young [potential] homeowner who wants to get into the market; not being able to write off property taxes will have a dramatic effect on what they can afford.”
Heather Howard, Princeton councilwoman, is on the healthcare committee. Howard was state Commissioner of Health and Senior Services under Jon Corzine and was previously an advisor on domestic policy for the Clinton administration for both President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton. She also has a law degree from NYU and was a clerk in a federal court.
She has been a Princeton councilwoman since 2011. She is on the faculty of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, where she specializes in healthcare policy and manages programs that help states implement the Affordable Care Act and reform their healthcare systems. (U.S. 1, January 4, 2017.)
Nelida Valentin, vice president of the Princess Road-based Princeton Area Community Foundation, on the labor and workforce development committee. Valentin manages grants and programs at the nonprofit group, which promotes philanthropy and supports other nonprofits. (U.S. 1, August 17, 2016.) She is a Trenton resident with extensive experience at Trenton-area nonprofits, who helped found the Greater Trenton group. She is a master’s graduate of Rutgers and has taught classes there in addition to being on the school’s board. Before joining the PACF in 2016, she led NJIT’s Innovation Institute.
Jianping Wang, president of Mercer County Community College, is on the Education, Access, and Opportunity committee. As president of MCCC, Wang has emphasized practical training in the school curriculum and has launched partnerships with several area companies to provide job training and placement for students.
She grew up in China and was a professor there, leaving amid the unrest of the 1989 student protests. After coming to the U.S., she earned a master’s in education at Harvard and was an administrator at several community colleges before joining MCCC in 2015. (U.S. 1, August 12, 2015.)
David Crane, former CEO of NRG, is on the Environment and Energy committee. Crane was president of Cargnegie Center-based energy company NRG, which owns power plants around the country. He led a pivot towards renewable energy, but was forced out in 2015 when oil and gas prices fell. (U.S. 1, December 9, 2015.) After that he became an executive at Pegasus Capital Advisors, a sustainability-oriented investment firm, and also became director of ACWA Power International, a Saudi Arabian company that operates power and desalination plants around the world.
John S. Watson Jr., vice president of the D&R Greenway Land Trust, is on the Environment and Energy committee. Before joining the Princeton-based preservation group, Watson was employed by the state Department of Environmental Protection since 1981, where he rose to the rank of deputy commissioner. He lives in Lawrenceville.
Linda Schwimmer, CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a Route 1-based advocacy group that promotes hospital safety, is on the Healthcare committee. Schwimmer, a Princeton resident, was previously director of strategic relations and external affairs at Horizon Healthcare Innovations, a subsidiary of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
She was also director of legislation and policy for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance and was a lawyer in private practice and a clerk for a U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge and worked as an attorney at the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. She has a law degree from Georgetown.
Ayesha Hamilton, West Windsor councilwoman, is on the Labor and Workforce Development committee. She is a lawyer with her own firm in West Windsor, practicing in employment and business law, where she specializes in representing employees in discrimination claims. She was elected to the West Windsor council in 2015 and has law and undergraduate degrees from Case Western University.
Paul Anzano, mayor of Hopewell Borough, is on the Stronger and Fairer Economy committee. Anzano, a partner in the firm Pringle Quinn Anzano, has made the news as mayor of his small municipality by declaring it a sanctuary city this February. He also once proposed turning the town into a nonprofit group in order to avoid state government mandates.
As a lawyer, he has served as counsel to the New Jersey Senate and other government bodies and nongovernmental organizations. He earned an undergraduate degree at Rutgers and a law degree at Seton Hall.
Joe Taylor, CEO of Matrix Development Group in Cranbury, is on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee. Taylor, whose company has developed numerous distribution centers near Exit 8A, also led an advisory panel to Jon Corzine in 2009. He has worked for Matrix since 1981 and has expanded the real estate investment company’s reach to neighboring states, and its activities to include construction, golf, and hospitalities. He is also involved in numerous industry groups.
Jessica Niederer, owner of Chickadee Creek organic farm in Pennington, is on the agriculture committee. Niederer, 34, is a member of a prominent Hopewell Valley family whose history in the area goes back to 1910. Niederer majored in natural resources at Cornell, working as a part-time waitress to pay off student loans and working at other organic farms before starting one of her own. (U.S. 1, February 6, 2013.) She was named New Jersey’s Outstanding Young Farmer by the Department of Agriculture in 2016.
Jon Dolan, CEO of the Health Care Association of New Jersey, is on the healthcare committee. The HCANJ is a trade group representing long-term care operators, based on AAA Drive in Hamilton. Dolan is a former CIA agent, national guardsman, and Republican lawmaker in Missouri who served two terms between 1996 and 2000. As a legislator he returned home unexpectedly on leave from a guard deployment in Iraq to cast the deciding vote allowing concealed weapons to be carried in the state.
Steve Jany of Rustin Farms in West Windsor is also on the agriculture committee. Jany has been involved in farming since 1965 when he took a job at what is now the 2,000-acre Rustin Farm right out of high school. He became a partner there in 1973 and has served as vice president of the state Farm Bureau and was also a member of the state and county boards of agriculture and other organizations.
More on Murphy: www.murphy4nj.com.