Murphy and Christie meet; Oliver to be DCA commisssioner
New Jersey’s current and future governors met for the first time since the election Thursday in Trenton.
Gov.-elect Phil Murphy met with Gov. Chris Christie for about 90 minutes in the Governor’s Office, which has been relocated down the street from the Statehouse while parts of the capitol building are being renovated and restored. That work is expected to take until 2021, so Murphy might have to win re-election to ever work out of the Statehouse itself.
Murphy didn’t stop to speak with reporters who had staked out the building where he and Christie met, dashing off to his trooper-driven car, already 30 minutes late for a meeting at his transition office. He said they discussed “transition stuff” but provided no details.
“Terrific meeting and all focused on transition. And that’s where we’re heading right now, to check out the new digs,” Murphy said. “… Just a great willingness on the governor’s part to be as helpful as possible, and we welcome that obviously. And so it was a good, good discussion.”
Christie has long complained about the transition eight years ago, feeling that outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration wasn’t adequately helpful. The circumstances then were a little different, as Christie defeated Corzine in the 2009 election. This year, Murphy ran against Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, though he was a frequent critic of Christie throughout the race.
Christie said in an emailed statement that the transfer of power will be “organized, cooperative and effective.”
Murphy made one formal announcement Thursday, appointing Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver as his commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees local governments, Superstorm Sandy recovery, affordable housing and other programs.
Oliver has a background in local government, having begun her career as director of the Office of Youth Services and Special Projects in the Newark Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training. She ran for mayor of East Orange but lost narrowly. She has served on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and as director of the Essex County Department of Economic Development, Training and Employment and is currently assistant county administrator for Essex County in addition to being a member of the state Assembly.
Because Oliver will be lieutenant governor, her appointment will not require Senate confirmation.
Though there are still 67 days before Republican Gov. Chris Christie leaves office, lawmakers are looking ahead to the next term. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said he is calling Murphy’s office to arrange a meeting between the two of them and Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, the incoming Assembly speaker.
“So that we can plot out what’s his agenda for a hundred days and see if we can’t match things up,” Sweeney said. “We want to be different than what’s going on in Washington. We want to show that you can get things done.”
Over the last eight years, Gov. Chris Christie set a record for vetoes as he worked with – or sometimes against – a Democrat-controlled Legislature. The red pen will come out less often once Murphy takes over, but Sweeney that doesn’t mean the Legislature won’t be a rubber stamp for Murphy.
“No,” Sweeney said. “Did it mean that way with Jon Corzine? No.”
Sweeney said Democrats will revisit a host of priorities they couldn’t get enacted due to vetoes by Gov. Chris Christie, including women’s health, pay equity, a higher minimum wage, paid family leave.
“I think we’ll be able to agree a hell of a lot more than we’re going to disagree, and we’ll focus where we can agree and get those things done first,” Sweeney said. “Get the easy ones done first, and then we’ll move on to some of the harder ones.”