TRENTON – After nearly six months on the job, acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin was finally interviewed and endorsed for the position Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, final approval for the appointment will wait until October.

Platkin, 35, a resident of Montclair, was advanced in an 8-2 vote. All of the panel’s Democrats and one of its three Republicans voted for Platkin, a former chief counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy.

“We are dealing with a rise in crime, and my first responsibility, as I said from the day I was nominated on forward, is keeping the 9 million residents of this state safe,” Platkin said.

Platkin said public safety can be achieved along with a progressive approach to criminal justice. He said the state needs residents to be confident when calling 911 that the person who shows up will have their back.

“Because when they feel that way, they’re more likely to dial 911, and they’re more likely to serve as witnesses. They’re more likely to come forward and report crimes before they happen,” Platkin said.

Platkin said gun violence numbers in New Jersey have leveled off and begun to come down in New Jersey, which isn’t the case in other parts of the country. He emphasized his office’s effort to address rising car thefts, a topic raised by three of the senators on the committee.

Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, said Platkin’s office is losing focus on defending public safety in favor of becoming more of a spot for promoting political policies.

“Not so much a focus on that but more of a shift to promoting progressive political policies that may have a national implication or a statewide implication,” Bucco said.

Bucco opposed Platkin, as did Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren. Doherty questioned Platkin at length, including about his handling of sex assault allegations against an aide on track for a job in the Murphy administration during the post-election transition period in 2017.

“There are things certainly we would have done differently with hindsight, and one of those things that I said then that I would say again today is I would have told the governor of the specific allegation,” Platkin said.

Platkin was Murphy’s chief counsel early in the pandemic, when the most restrictive executive orders were being issued. He told Doherty they were based on advice from public health professionals and none were overturned by federal or state courts despite a lot of litigation.

Sen. Jon Bramnick, R-Union, joined the panel’s Democrats in voting for the nomination. He said Platkin is qualified and supported him despite policy concerns.

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Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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