With events in Washington unfolding as they are, the need to install progressive leadership at the state level is becoming more urgent: State governments can do a great deal to mitigate damaging actions at the federal level, from guaranteeing civil and reproductive rights to funding education, from regulating polluters to promoting a living wage.
New Jersey, far less dependent on federal funding than 47 other states (we get back $0.71 for every dollar we send to Washington) and with a relatively affluent tax base, is in a better position than many to cushion the blows that are coming.
But that will require putting Democrats in the State House, and that, in turn, will require some work.
So far four Democrats have thrown their hats into the primary ring: banking executive and former ambassador Phillip Murphy, the leading contender; Assemblyman John Wisniewski; Jim Johnson, a former U.S. Department of Treasury official and federal prosecutor, and Bill Brennan, an activist who recently filed a citizen’s complaint calling for prosecution of Christie for Bridgegate.
And according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released this week, the majority of registered voters in New Jersey have no idea who these people are.
FDU says Murphy, despite spending millions on advertising so far, is recognized by only 40 percent of the state’s registered voters. Wisniewski and Johnson fare worse, with 31 percent and 24 percent, respectively, familiar with their names. Brennan declared too recently to be included.
The good news for Democrats is that likely Republican candidates are in the same boat, enjoying little to no recognition among registered voters: Making Democratic primary candidates household names during 2017 is thus crucial to creating a positive outcome.