Students share their perspectives on newly elected Governor, Phil Murphy


Murphy beat out Kim Guadagno in the recent elections.

Phil Murphy’s November defeat of Kim Guadagno in the race to be New Jersey’s next governor has inspired hope among Democrats throughout the state. Among them was Samuel Brown, a freshman at Cherry Hill East. “I’m definitely glad Phil Murphy was elected,” Brown said enthusiastically. “I hope it’s part of a trend that shows more Democrats getting elected in public office.” Referring to one of Murphy’s signature policy positions, Brown observed that the governor-elect pushed a better plan for New Jersey’s public schools. Murphy is not only in favor of increasing school funding, but also treating teachers unions (and unions as a whole) with more respect and dignity than incumbent Chris Christie. Commenting on Murphy’s primary opponent, Kim Guadagno, Brown thought that “she would’ve made a fine governor” but his first choice was Murphy.

Senior Shaunak Nadkarni, a self-identified liberal, also expressed pleasure at Murphy’s victory. “What I like about him is his aggressiveness,” he noted, though, he too mentioned that he would have been happy with either of Gov. Christie’s replacements. “[Christie] deteriorated this state tremendously,” he said, specifically noting Christie’s perceived failures in education and lack of regard for the lower and middle classes. Still, Nadkarni remains skeptical about Murphy’s plan to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. “I think it’s too good to be true. I know we all want there to be a large minimum wage, but we cannot have such a large jump [from $8.44 to $15].” Additionally, Nadkarni expressed disappointment with Murphy’s tax policy, explaining that his challenger offered a better plan to reduce property taxes in the state.

Not everybody was as happy with the election outcome as Brown and Nadkarni. Junior Aaron Kopew, who affiliates himself with the Republican Party, expressed pessimism with the result. “I think some of [Murphy’s] policies – especially having to do with the minimum wage and taxes – are extremely harmful.” Kopew believes that Murphy’s proposal to increase the minimum wage – arguably the candidate’s most controversial campaign promise – will ultimately lead to fewer jobs in the state. “From a business perspective, [Guadagno] didn’t want to raise taxes, she wanted to set a ceiling for taxes, she wanted to keep the minimum wage where it was, so I think all those policies put together show that businesses would have a better time” had the Republican candidate prevailed. Kopew conceded that Murphy “was on the right side of things” regarding pay equality and could, in fact, implement positive change in New Jersey.

Republican-identifying 10th-grader Jakob Michel also expressed disappointment about Murphy’s win, but acknowledged that he, like many others, expected that outcome because Gov. Christie is overwhelmingly unpopular. “I think the change that Phil Murphy wants to implement in is harmful for New Jersey in the long run,” he said, citing potential tax increases and the prospect of New Jersey becoming a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants. Like Kopew, Michel believes that the Murphy’s proposed minimum-wage hike would hurt New Jersey workers, particularly low-income ones. “It would definitely drive the demand for low-wage workers down,” he explained. While expressing his support for Guadagno largely based on her stance on the economy and immigration, Michel was not fully on-board with her plans. “She could’ve said she was going to help Atlantic City and some of our poorer areas better.”

Surprisingly, one area of unanimity among these East students was for one of Murphy’s goals: marijuana legalization. “It’s a states’ rights issue,” Michel noted. “I think the states should be able to do stuff like this.” He added that it would also provide lucrative business opportunities for New Jerseyans. Unlike many of his fellow conservatives, Michel pointed out that legalization also served as a criminal-justice issue that would reduce our state’s prison population. Kopew supports Murphy’s proposal because “it would be less expensive for the government, create less government controls, and overall give New Jersey some tax revenue that it needs to balance the budget,” pointing to Trenton’s ever-increasing deficit. Both Brown and Nadkarni were quick to voice their support for legalization, an increasingly mainstream Democratic policy proposal.

While New Jerseyans have different views about Murphy’s politics, there is little doubt that residents want him to take advantage of his newfound opportunity and make the state a more prosperous one.