Lesniak slams Murphy in debate

Candidates, from left, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Phil Murphy, Jim Johnson and Sen. Ray Lesniak attend the final Democratic gubernatorial primary debate, Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Newark. (Pool Photo by Julio Cortez)

State Senator Ray Lesniak and two other participants in the final gubernatorial debate harshly criticized Wall Street millionaire Philip Murphy for his role on a Goldman Sachs management committee that set up thousands of homeowners for failure and resulted in a $6 billion fine.

Attacked on that and for holding stocks in companies that pollute the environment, cheat workers, dodge federal tax obligations and profit off the sale of deadly cigarettes, Murphy simply responded: “Well, there’s no good answer for that.”

Lesniak joined Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jim Johnson and John Wisniewski in piling on Murphy, who is widely perceived as a carpet-bagger using a vast fortune from his years at the notorious Wall Street investment bank, Goldman Sachs, to buy up support from political bosses to gain front-runner status.

Democrats running for governor in next month’s primary generously bashed Gov. Chris Christie and President Trump, but Murphy was the principle target of attacks.

Lesniak asked Murphy how he can run for governor as a Democrat after setting the conditions for the mortgage crisis as member of that Goldman Sachs management committee, but claiming his departure occurred before the crash, the millionaire called the charge a “pesky detail.”

Murphy defended his support for charter schools and argued “we over-label this issue,” but Johnson called him on ducking the question.

“I’m a reasonably bright guy but I don’t understand what Mr. Murphy’s answer had to do with the question,” said the lawyer from Montclair.

Noting that Murphy owns stock in dozens of companies that routinely pollute the environment, Lesniak said his investments reflect different values than those held by the people in New Jersey’s Democratic Party.

The election is still 26 days away but this is the final state-sanctioned debate.

Murphy – a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany – has spent $18.4 million as of May 5, with $15.1 million in campaign cash that has come from his own pocket, according to reports. Despite his huge financial advantage, polls show him struggling to gain acceptance.

Four candidates who were able to put $430,000 in the campaign accounts by April 4 were allowed to compete in two debates, while two contenders who qualified for the ballot but failed to meet the financial level required for entry in those exchanges were excluded, Mark Zinna and Bill Brennan.

On Tuesday, two of the contenders attacked Murphy during a similar panel at Stockton University for his background as a Goldman Sachs banker and the way he overtly used money to convince party bosses to support his candidacy. That debate was broadcast on News 12.

Thursday’s debate in Newark among the four candidates aired on NJTV.

Polls show most voters remain undecided about which contender they support in the June 6 primary, signalling a major weakness in Murphy’s strategy, which was to overwhelm all opponents by spending millions of dollars starting a full year ahead of the balloting. Despite his year-long ad campaign and ample field staff, three out of four Democrats still say they are unlikely to pick the Wall Street millionaire as their party’s nominee.

The victor will compete with the candidate nominated by the GOP, vying in November to succeed Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who is term-limited.




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