NJ DEMOCRATS FACE OFF

We’ll tell you about the drama at the center of New Jersey’s political feud between Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Aired on December 4, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

THE TWO MOST POWERFUL DEMOCRATS IN NEW JERSEY JUST CAN'T SEEM TO GET ALONG, GOVERNOR MURPHY AND SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE SWEENEY HAVE BEEN AT ODDS SINCE LAST YEAR AND IT HAS BEEN BOTH NASTY AND PERSONAL.

THE TWO MEN STEAM GENUINELY LIKE EACH OTHER AND ACCORDING TO CRITICS, THEIR CLASH THAT TIED UP MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF STATE MONEY AND TIED UP SEVERAL DOLLARS OF KEY INITIATIVES.

TO BREAK IT DOWN FOR US, OUR AFFAIRS EDITOR, STEVE ADUBATO.

WELCOME.

THIS SITUATION IS NOT UNPRECEDENTED IN NEW JERSEY.

IN FACT, STEVE SWEENEY DIDN'T GET ALONG ALL THAT WELL WITH THE LAST DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR.

YES.

THE LAST DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR, JON CORZINE.

WHAT'S THE REASON FOR THIS PARTICULAR FEUD?

THEY DON'T LIKE EACH OTHER FOLLOWLY.

YOU HAVE THE GOVERNOR THE MORE LIBERAL AND STEVE SWEENEY A MODERATE LEANING CONSERVATIVE.

BOTTOM LINE IS THERE IS AN IDEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO AND PERSONAL DIFFERENCE.

ANOTHER THING, STEVE SWEENEY WANTED TO BE GOVERNOR.

LET'S NOT KID OURSELVES.

I DON'T WANT TO GET INSIDE NEW JERSEY BASEBALL IN TERMS OF POLITICS.

A COUPLE YEARS AGO WHEN PHIL MURPHY WASN'T IN THIS PICTURE, STEVE SWEENEY WAS THE LEADING CANDIDATE TO RUN FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

SO COMING IN WITH, I HAVE THE MONEY AND STEVE BACKS UP, AND THERE'S JEALOUSY AND ENVY AND PERSONAL STUFF.

THEY DISAGREE ON A RANGE OF IMPORTANT POLICY ISSUES.

THEY SEE THE WORLD VERY DIFFERENTLY EVEN THOUGH THERE'S A D AFTER EACH OTHER'S NAMES.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE LIKING EACH OTHER.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE ISSUES.

BEFORE, WHAT ABOUT SECTIONAL DIFFERENCE.

SWEENEY COMES FROM THE SOUTH AND MURPHY FROM THE NORTH.

THEY'RE DIFFERENT PLACE OPINIONS.

PEOPLE SOMETIMES THINK NEW JERSEY IS A PROVINCIAL STATE IN SOME WAYS.

WHILE WE'RE BLUE, WE'RE NOT BLUE ACROSS THE BOARD, YES, IN THE NORTH CENTRAL PART OF THE STATE MORE DEMOCRATIC.

YOU GO TO THE SOUTH, YOU HAVE OLD BLUE DOG DEMOCRATS IN THE SOUTH THEY USED TO TALK ABOUT, SWEENEY AND A LOT OF THOSE DEMOCRATS, THEY'RE NOT DEMOCRATS IN THE WAY THOSE IN THE NORTH AND JERSEY CITY ARE.

THEY LEAN TO THE RIGHT A LITTLE BIT AND PHIL MURPHY DOESN'T REALLY RELATE TO THEM IN THIS SAME WAY BECAUSE THEY'RE IN A DIFFERENT PLACE IDEOLOGICALLY.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ISSUES THEY FOUGHT OVER THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF AND NOW?

ONE, MEDICAL MARIJUANA -- EXCUSE ME, LEGALIZING MARIJUANA.

WHILE THEY BOTH SAY THEY'RE ON THE SAME PLACE ON THIS ISSUE, IT HASN'T GONE ANYWHERE.

WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?

YES, IT'S TOUGH TO GET THE VOTES IN THE SENATE FOR IT.

IF THE SENATE AND THE GOVERNOR WERE FOR IT, IT WOULD HAPPEN.

AND THE SECOND, MILLIONAIRE'S TAXES.

WE NEED TO RAISE TAXES ON MILLIONAIRES.

STEVE SWEENEY AT ONE TIME HAD THE POSITION, SAID, I USED TO THINK THAT UNTIL DONALD TRUMP AND THE REPUBLICANS CHANGED THE LAW WHERE YOU CAN ONLY WRITE OFF YOUR STATE AND PROPERTY TAX IN NEW JERSEY.

I CAN'T SUPPORT A MILLIONAIRE'S TAX.

GOVERNOR MURPHY WILL CALL FOR IT AGAIN.

SWEENEY WILL FIGHT HIM.

THEY FIGHT ON TAXES AND THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS.

SWEENEY WAS RECENTLY ON YOUR SHOW TO TALK ABOUT WHAT?

WE HAD STEVE SWEENEY ON FOR A LOT OF THINGS.

THE CLIPPER ABOUT THE SHOW GOES TO THIS.

THERE'S ABOUT $350 MILLION OF STATE MONEY IN THE BUDGET THAT IS FOR CANCER TREATMENT, FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, A WHOLE RANGE OF THINGS.

THAT MONEY IS HELD UP BECAUSE GOVERNOR MURPHY SAYS, I WILL NOT FUND IT, EVEN THOUGH STEVE SWEENEY SAYS HE'S IN FAVOR OF IT BUT DOING THIS FOR PERSONAL REASONS.

THIS CLIP WE'RE ABOUT TO SEE IS STEVE SWEENEY, THE SENATE PRESIDENT SAYING WHY HE BELIEVES IT IS PERSONAL.

THIS GETS PERSONAL TO ME AND I LOST MY MOTHER AND BROTHER TO CANCER.

WHY WOULD YOU DENY PEOPLE IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY TO DEAL WITH CANCER TREATMENT.

IT'S UNFAIR.

I WENT AFTER CHRIS CHRISTIE WHEN HE CUT A BUDGET AND CALLED HIM A WHOLE BUNCH OF NAMES.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY WHEN PHIL MURPHY SAYS I SUPPORT THESE THINGS, THEN FUND THEM.

YOU MENTIONED CHRIS CHRISTIE.

HE HAS GOTTEN INTO THIS BATTLE.

WHAT'S HE SAYING?

I THOUGHT HE WAS RUNNING INTO A NEW CIVILITY IN POLITICS.

YOU AND I CAN ATTEST TO THAT HAVING DONE MANY INTERVIEWS WITH HIM, WASN'T UNCIVIL.

HOWEVER, CHRIS CHRISTIE LIKES SWEENEY AND LIKE EACH OTHER AND REALLY LIKE GIVING PHIL MURPHY A HARD TIME.

CHRIS CHRISTIE AFTER THE INAUGURAL EVENT AT THE LAW SCHOOL, WHO DO YOU THINK HE TRASHED FOR HALF AN HOUR?

PHIL MURPHY.

HE SAID SOMETHING LIKE THIS.

HE'S AN ACTOR AND HE LIKES TO DANCE -- I DON'T KNOW WHAT HE SAID -- HE THINKS THIS IS THEATER AND THIS IS REAL LIFE.

HE TRASHED HIM.

BECAUSE HE WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR IN REAL LIFE.

NOT CHRISTIE, MURPHY.

I'M JOKING.

I THINK SWEENEY AND GOVERNOR CHRISTIE AND THE HEAD OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN A LOT OF WAYS, NORCROSS, GEORGE NORCROSS, NOT AN ELECTED OFFICIAL, THEY'RE TOGETHER, AND TRUTHFULLY, THEY WANT TO MAKE PHIL MURPHY'S LIFE MISERABLE.

I BELIEVE ULTIMATELY THEY'RE HEADED FOR A DEMOCRATIC CIVIL WAR IN A COUPLE YEARS OVER THAT GOVERNORSHIP.

DO YOU THINK SWEENEY WILL ENTER A PRIMARY AGAINST MURPHY?

YOU AND I TALKED A COUPLE YEARS BACK, I WASN'T SO SURE.

I'M CONVINCED STEVE SWEENEY TALKING ABOUT GOVERNOR MURPHY NOT FUNDING TRANSIT ENOUGH, DOESN'T HAVE THE RIGHT POSITION ON TAXES.

NOT TOUGH ENOUGH ON PUBLIC UNIONS, AND THEY HAVE TO GIVE BACK ON THE RETIREMENT.

I THINK IT WILL BE A BATTLE BETWEEN SWEENEY AND MURPHY FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION.

I'M CONVINCED OF THAT ANY TIME NOW.

YOU DON'T THINK OF A DAYTANT ANY TIME?

PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WASHINGTON AND IT IS, DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS.

HERE, THESE DEMOCRATS, THEY'RE NOT REALLY IN THE SAME PARTY.

THEY MAY AGAIN HAVE A D AFTER THEIR NAME AND DON'T BELIEVE IN THE SAME THINGS, I'M REPEATING MYSELF, THEY DON'T LIKE EACH OTHER.

I THINK THEY'D RATHER FIGHT IN MY OPINION, THAN FIND A WAY TO COMPROMISE AND WORK TOGETHER ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS STATE.

THEY'RE JUST IN FIGHT MODE.

THIS FEUD, HOW IS IT COSTING THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY?

THINK ABOUT THIS.

YOU HAVE GOVERNOR, THE MOST POWERFUL GOVERNOR IN THE NATION BASED ON THE 1947 CONSTITUTION, HE OR SHE HAS LINE-ITEM VETO POWER.

A SENATE PRESIDENT GOING ON ALMOST A DECADE BEING THE SENATE PRESIDENT.

TOGETHER, THEY CAN MOVE LEGALIZING MARIJUANA AND CHANGING FISCAL POLICIES IN THE STATE AND AGREE ON FUNDING FOR BUSES AND TRANSIT.

THE PENSION FUND.

SOMETHING WAS DONE ABOUT THE PENSION FUND BETWEEN SWEENEY AND MURPHY.

SWEENEY ARGUES NOT ENOUGH, UNIONS ARE FIGHTING HIM ON THAT AND MURPHY SAYING THEY HAVE GIVEN ENOUGH.

PART BECAUSE THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS ARE SO SUPPORTIVE OF MURPHY AND DESPISE SWEENEY.

IT'S A DAYTHANTE, IS THAT THE WORD.

THAT'S NOT THE WAORD I'M THINKIG OF.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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