In a political era marked by populism, a former Goldman Sachs executive in addition to also also major Democratic donor is actually the front-runner to become fresh Jersey’s next governor.
On Tuesday, fresh Jersey voters will choose between Democrat Phil Murphy in addition to also also Republican Kim Guadagno, the state’s lieutenant governor. Murphy, the former bank executive, holds a comfortable lead in all recent polls.
Murphy, 60, has had to defend his more than 20 years at Goldman while pushing a progressive platform. He has focused partly on boosting the working class in addition to also also holding Wall Street firms in check. Murphy has also tried to avoid the shadow of the state’s last Democratic governor, the unpopular Jon Corzine, who was Goldman’s CEO before becoming a fresh Jersey politician.
While Guadagno has cast Murphy as an out-of-touch “Goldman Sachs millionaire,” the association appears to have done little to hamper his chances. Still, the item remains to be seen how Murphy’s Goldman past would likely affect his ability to enact worker-driven policy in fresh Jersey.
Murphy’s allies see a candidate who knows how to fix capitalism’s flaws due to his work at the top reaches of the U.S. economy.
“I think he sees himself differently via some of the people who succeeded on Wall Street. I just think he sees the planet differently than a lot of people on Wall Street do,” said Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who chaired the Democratic National Committee when Murphy led its finance arm.
The Murphy campaign did not respond to CNBC’s requests for an interview or comment.
Associations with Goldman or additional Wall Street firms have opened candidates to attacks in recent races. In last year’s presidential election, President Donald Trump targeted both Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in addition to also also Republican primary opponent Sen. Ted Cruz for connections to the firm.
Democrats have since hit Trump for filling the top ranks of the executive branch with wealthy former Goldman officials.
After the surprise success of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ populist presidential campaign in addition to also also struggles in 2016 national elections, the Democratic Party appeared set to embrace more progressive candidates.
Both Democrat in addition to also also Republican rivals inside the governor’s race have criticized Murphy for failing to fit which mold due to his wealth amassed at Goldman.
After joining the Wall Street titan inside the early 1980s, Murphy spent more than 20 years there. During his career, he led the firm’s Frankfurt, Germany, office in addition to also also served as president of its Asia division.
At Goldman, Murphy was reportedly renowned for his deal-producing ability, which helped him advance through the company. His work in Asia, though, has sparked controversy.
A investigation by the Star-Ledger newspaper in fresh Jersey showed which his division profited via an investment in a shoe producer which had dismal working conditions. Murphy’s campaign denied he had a role in Goldman producing the initial investment.
Before in addition to also also after leaving Goldman inside the mid-2000s, Murphy gave millions of his personal fortune to Democratic candidates in addition to also also national in addition to also also state party committees. He served as the party’s finance chairman via 2006 to 2009, where he worked closely with Dean.
Dean said he liked Murphy “instantly” the 1st time he met him. He described Murphy as charismatic in addition to also also smart in addition to also also said he listens in addition to also also manages people well.
After his DNC role, Murphy became the U.S. ambassador to Germany via 2009 to 2013. As a diplomat, he faced backlash over his sharp criticism of German officials in documents published by WikiLeaks. In one instance, he called German Chancellor Angela Merkel “insecure.”
Murphy’s campaign has largely downplayed his work at Goldman, his role in Germany in addition to also also his past as a major Democratic fundraiser. The candidate for governor has highlighted his working-class upbringing. His campaign website says he made his way through Harvard University by working part-time jobs in addition to also also taking out loans.
Guadagno has repeatedly cast Murphy as unable to identify with the average voter due to his wealth. At a debate last month, she called him a “Goldman Sachs millionaire” in addition to also also tied him to Corzine, the state’s “last Goldman Sachs governor.”
Corzine lost his 2009 re-election bid to Republican Gov. Chris Christie as the fresh Jersey economy reeled during the Great Recession.
The attacks on Murphy’s Goldman past have resonated little with voters, according to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. Murphy entered the race as a relative unknown, so Guadagno faced a challenge in educating voters about his past at the firm in addition to also also then producing them care about the item, he said.
Guadagno “has not been able to make as much hay out of Murphy’s past perhaps as she could have,” Murray said.
In a Monmouth poll last month, only 28 percent of fresh Jersey voters said they associated Murphy with his Goldman career. Thirty-four percent said they were unaware which he worked there.
Seventy percent of voters said his Goldman work would likely have no effect on their choice for governor.
As a Republican, Guadagno has likely faced more headwinds because of Christie’s dismally low approval rating, Murray added.
Murphy has struck a progressive tone in his campaign. Among additional policies, he has called for investments in infrastructure in addition to also also colleges, raising the minimum wage in addition to also also mandating earned sick leave.
Murphy has pushed for creating a public bank in addition to also also divesting fresh Jersey pension funds via hedge funds in addition to also also private equity. He has also called for a “millionaire’s tax” in addition to also also more aggressive prosecution of financial fraud.
Dean contended which Murphy’s experience on Wall Street has shown him why a progressive platform is actually necessary.
Said Dean: “Sometimes, the item takes someone who knows capitalism to fix the item. I think Phil completely gets which because he’s been on both ends of which.”