Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) teamed up to rally Assembly troops to victory in red districts during a fundraiser for the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee last night.
Prieto expressed excitement about being able to work with Murphy in Trenton after eight years of Republican Gov. Chris Christie in office.
“Listen, this starts at the top and we have an excellent, excellent candidate … I am so excited. I’ve got to know him, [for] almost about three years now, and boy does he have his pulse on New Jersey,” Prieto said of Murphy.
“He really understands what the middle class and the underserved in this state have been going through under the last eight years of this administration.”
Murphy then explained why he decided to run for governor before detailing how important it is to have Democratic challengers running in typically Republican districts.
“Listen, one of the most relevant chapters in my life, the most relevant for me – the speaker alluded to it and I’m humbled that you would – was how I was brought up. In an America where, even though we were working poor, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” recalled Murphy, who added he wanted working poor families to have the same opportunities he did growing up.
“I look around this room, listening to the names, Tom [Moran] I’ll throw you a bouquet, the 13th. Listen, the 40th, where Christine [Ordway] is here or was here, we talk about it all the time. Right next door in the 39th, some of these in the 20s. These are place where our party is going in, outstanding candidates, with some backing and some infrastructure, and asking for the order.”
In a one-on-one interview, Prieto said that his focus right now is electing Democrats, despite an inevitable challenge for the speakership from Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19).
“We’re looking at a lot of places that we haven’t looked before. We’re making sure they’re knocking on doors and I tell you: I feel excited and I think we’re gonna do very well with Phil Murphy at the top of the ticket. We’re gonna do well and we’re gonna surprise a lot of people,” said Prieto, who said the key districts up for grabs are 21, 23, 24, 25, 39 and 40.
“As I told everybody, I said I know how to count and I think we’re in a good place. This will actually help the party. This is not about the speakership race at this point in time. My focus at this point in time is about electing Democrats.”
Back in April, Murphy endorsed Prieto for re-election, but has largely stayed out of the battle over who the next Assembly speaker will be.
Then in May, shortly after Coughlin announced he would be running for speaker, Prieto said he planned on doing the same.
While it appeared that Coughlin had put the nail in the coffin by receiving the endorsement of the Essex County Democratic delegation last month, Prieto told Hudson County View the press release was “smoke and mirrors” – a tactic he would not need to achieve a third term.
Although he played it coy and said last night had nothing to do with the speakership, Prieto certainly sent a message by having four of the six members of the Essex County delegation in attendance.
Coughlin hasn’t been sitting on his hands though, hosting a fundraiser on Tuesday that brought in $400,000 for Democratic candidates in districts 2, 11 and 16 (h/t InsiderNJ).
Other officials on hand included Assemblyman members John Wisniewski (D-19), Jamel Holley (D-20), John McKeon, Mila Jasey (both D-27), Ralph Caputo, Cleopatra Tucker (both D-28), Nick Chiaravalloti, Angela McKnight (both D-31), Angelica Jimenez (D-32), Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, Guttenberg Councilman Wayne Zitt, among many others.