CAPE MAY — Gov. Phil Murphy attended a Democratic fundraiser Wednesday at the Chalfonte Hotel, planting a flag deep in heavily Republican Cape May County.
The event included appearances by several local Democratic candidates on the ballot in November, including Tim Alexander, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd; Julia Hankerson, the nominee for the Cape May County Board of Commissioners; and Melisha Anderson-Ruiz, who is challenging Republican incumbent Jim Norris for a seat on the Middle Township Committee.
This is the first time that three Black candidates have been on the ballot at the same time in Cape May County, Hankerson told the crowd at the Chalfonte.
State Democratic chairman LeRoy James also spoke at the event, which culminated with Murphy’s comments from the lawn, with those attending gathered on the porch of the historic hotel.
Along with the other speakers, Murphy spoke about protecting abortion rights, gun safety and protections for the LGBTQ community, along with ensuring voting rights and protecting the environment.
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“We are on the right side of history. We are the party that shares those values,” Murphy said.
Two million New Jersey property taxpayers and renters will get a tax break worth up to $1,500. That’s under a deal Gov. Phil Murphy and fellow Democrats in the Legislature unveiled on Wednesday. The $2 billion program comes thanks to flush state coffers. Murphy says it amounts to lowering the roughly $9,300 average property tax bill to $7,800, a level not seen in more than a decade. Murphy, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nicholas Scutari spoke alongside one another in South Brunswick and said part of their deal includes an agreement to continue the program in the future, meaning it won’t offer relief for only a single year. It’s unclear for how long the program would continue.
He also mentioned that on this visit, everyone who waved to him used all five fingers, a reference to the sometimes-frosty reception he has received in the county, which has been a GOP stronghold since just after the Civil War.
There are a handful of elected Democrats in the county — most of them were at the Chalfonte — but Republicans have a huge advantage in the numbers of registered voters, with more than 32,000 Republicans to fewer than 19,000 Democrats, along with about 24,000 voters who are not declared.
While there are several Democratic candidates for office, there are more seats in which Republican incumbents will go unchallenged this year at the municipal and county levels.
Murphy and other speakers praised Cape May County’s new Democratic leader, attorney Dan Kurkowski. He took over the party leadership earlier this year.
Kurkowski said with hard work and organization, the party can change things in Cape May County.
“I want to be the pebble that’s tossed in the water to create a blue wave, and I want that wave to begin right here in Cape May County,” Kurkowski said.
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