Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In NJ, two big Irish guys with alpha-dog personalities

For a Democratic governor with a Democratic Legislature, Murphy’s first few weeks at the helm have not been smooth sailing

NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy
Chase Brush reports
for NJ Spotlight:

For Democrats in the state, Gov. Phil Murphy’s election last year marked the beginning of a new era in New Jersey politics, one in which the party — now in control of both the Legislature and the executive branch — would be free to move forward on a range of policy initiatives, many of which had been previously kept out of reach by two-term Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

But that long-awaited unification has not come without its fair share of growing pains. Over a month into a new year and a few weeks into a new administration, relations between lawmakers and Murphy’s team have not been as bright as some would like them, with tensions evident on several pressing legislative fronts, from a collection of still-pending cabinet appointments to questions about how to handle the state’s increasing tax burden. Some reports also point to deep infighting among Murphy’s senior staff and members of the Legislature.

Together, the accounts challenge the assumption that all would be well as soon as Murphy took office.

“You would've thought the last governor was Democrat and vice versa,” said one Democratic source about the current culture in Trenton.

To hear some lawmakers and observers tell it, the main battle is playing out between Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, two outsized personalities and almost competitors for the gubernatorial post that now find themselves wary partners at the top of state government. Despite certain similarities, both seem to be intent on exercising the full power of their respective positions — a dynamic that, at least in these early stages, has kept them somewhat at odds.

“Listen, they’re two big Irish guys with alpha-dog personalities,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, acknowledging at least some stress between the leaders. “One gets to sign, and the other gets to send him legislation.”

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