Phil Murphy, the front-runner in New Jersey’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, faces new questions about his tenure at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs with the election just days away.
The campaign of attorney Jim Johnson, Murphy’s closest competitor in the race, criticized Murphy for serving as president of Goldman Sachs Asia at a time when the division profited from an investment in Yue Yuen Industrial, a Taiwan-based shoemaker. Human rights groups claim to have documented widespread labor abuses by Yue Yuen, including the company docking workers’ already modest pay for mistakes and running factories where machines sometimes severed workers’ hands and fingers, according to an NJ Advance Media report.
“Murphy’s record at Goldman Sachs undercuts what he says on the campaign trail to working families, and it shows that he should not be trusted when he promises to disavow money in politics,” Johnson campaign manager Jocelyn Steinberg said in a Friday statement. “Voters in New Jersey don’t need any more political gimmicks ― they deserve an explanation from Phil Murphy about his time at Goldman Sachs before they head to the polls on June 6.”
Murphy’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost, but provided a statement to NJ Advance Media.
“These investments were made by a committee at Goldman Sachs’ main office in New York with which Phil had no involvement, well before Phil relocated from Germany to Hong Kong to run Goldman Sachs’ office in Asia,” Murphy spokeswoman Julie Roginsky said in a statement. “Suggesting that Phil is accountable for the decisions of others is irresponsibly deceitful and holds him to an unreasonable standard.”
Johnson, 56, a senior Treasury Department official in the Bill Clinton administration, has spent the last several years practicing civil rights law, fighting for greater police accountability. If elected, he would be the Garden State’s first African-American governor.
Johnson has nonetheless had a hard time establishing himself as the race’s true progressive, notwithstanding Murphy’s history at the controversial Goldman Sachs and the wave of anti-elite populism sweeping both major parties.
Murphy, 59, an ambassador to Germany during the Barack Obama administration, has poured more than $20 million of his own money into his bid, securing the endorsements of major labor unions and former Vice President Joe Biden. He has silenced would-be criticism with an unabashedly liberal platform of support for the $15 minimum wage, marijuana legalization and the creation of a public bank.
Polling is sparse in the race, but in a May poll conducted by Stockton University, Murphy had a lead of 24 percentage points over Johnson. Other candidates trailing Johnson include Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chaired Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in the state, and state Sen. Ray Lesniak. (Sanders has not endorsed in the race, but his son Levi is backing Murphy.)
Candidates from both parties compete in primaries this Tuesday, and the general election will be on Nov. 7. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is favored to become the Republican nominee for governor.
The race has thus far received little of the attention lavished on the gubernatorial race taking place in Virginia this November or the special congressional elections that will occur in the meantime.
But New Jersey presents a prime opportunity for Democrats to flip a governorship and add to a very limited tally of states where they control all branches of state government. Outgoing Republican Gov. Chris Christie has plummeted in popularity, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat President Donald Trump by 14 percentage points in the state, making it ripe territory for a Democratic pickup.