Almost halfway through his state constitutionally limited second term, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy admits he has his eye on the finish line – but amid speculation about his future, he does not see a White House in the distance.
“I don’t see it. I’m 65 and I don’t think, to each his own and for this guy, I’m good with doing what I’m doing, which is my nose pressed against the Jersey glass and running for the tape,” Murphy said in an exclusive one-on-one interview with NBC New York.
While denying for the first time publicly any presidential ambition post-President Joe Biden, he didn’t slam the door on D.C. entirely. A job as part of an administration could in the cards.
“I would never say never, but literally have not given one speck of thought when we are done here,” Murphy said.
Amusingly, some of the speculation in New Jersey about Murphy potentially going to Washington has been fueled by dramatic changes he has made. No, not politically or anything of that sort — but rather the new look of his hair.
He said it came after speaking with his barber, when she suggested the change.
“About a year ago, I can’t remember when, she says ‘Mr. Murphy, why do I keep cutting your hair? You don’t have that much hair to begin with, you should let your hair grow,'” recalled Murphy. “So I said ‘Ms. Kim, let’s give it a try.'”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy got candid with NBC New York’s Brian Thompson during a one-on-one interview, opening up about the fight against gun violence and the lessons learned from the pandemic.
In the nearly six years following Republican former governor Chris Christie, Murphy has carved a trail 180 degrees opposite — leading his fellow Democrats down a progressive road not seen in decades.
That included a statewide ban on plastic straws and plastic grocery bags. But some environmentalists say his administration hasn’t gone far enough to end the Garden State’s dependence on natural gas.
There’s also the glaring issue of returnable cans and bottles, incentivizing recycling with a deposit. It’s the law in ten states – including New York and Connecticut – but not in New Jersey.
As to why his state does not have a similar bill, he said he doesn’t “have a good answer for you…Something we should probably have.” Murphy also said that he would “conceptually” welcome some sort of bottle bill to come to his desk.
Regarding a bottle return bill similar to New York’s and Connecticut’s, we reached out to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin who also has no idea why New Jersey doesn’t have one, but quickly added that it’s probably something his environment committee should look at.
Murphy – a native of Massachusetts – is in a reflective mood as his time as governor starts to wind down. He continues to look ahead to his next chapter while wrestling with the realities of running the Garden State, and the divisive national political scene. High among those issues: mass shootings, and attacks by NRA over the gun-control law he signed.
The governor said he wishes more could be done to help combat the scourge of gun violence in the country.
“We’ve started to and I don’t want to make light of even modest progress, but I am disheartened that I’m not sure we’ll ever get to that comprehensive state that we need to get to,” he said of gun control measures.
Bitter disagreement also is a reality in the fight over abortion rights. Murphy said the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, overturning Roe vs. Wade, hit especially hard. The practicing Catholic and father of four had signed one of the nation’s most liberal reproductive rights bills, allowing abortion up until birth. Critics have attacked it, but Murphy remains defiant.
“We’re on the right side of history and I’m convinced that history will agree with me,” he said, adding that one’s own personal beliefs on the matter should not influence state policy. “I can’t let that dictate what I believe is right for the women in New Jersey. As painful as that may be inside my heart, it is not what is right for this state and I will never waiver from that.”
Nationally, Murphy was defined by his pandemic response, criticized in some circles for a prolonged shutdown that impacted schools and businesses, as well as extended mask requirements in one of the first states hit by COVID, with one of the highest death tolls.
Murphy said he wishes that so much of the pandemic had not become a partisan issue, and pinned blame for that squarely on the person occupying the White House at the time.
“Sadly starts at the top. I blame President Trump for making this a partisan matter when it didn’t need to be,” Murphy said.
And while he said he will always carry the pain of lives lost and businesses shuttered forever, he didn’t second-guess the moves he made.
“I believe with all my heart based on everything we knew at every moment of this, we had no choice,” Murphy said.