Can Progressives Change New Jersey?

Frustrated with the stalemate in Washington, many progressives have set their sights on the 15 states where Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governorship. New Jersey is one of those 15: Democrats have virtually veto-proof legislative majorities, Gov. Philip D. Murphy is a self-described progressive, and the 14-member congressional delegation has only two Republicans.

The state has adopted some progressive measures, notably raising the minimum wage to $15 and expanding paid sick leave. But the Democratic leaders in the state legislature have blocked key policies that Murphy supports, including raising taxes on millionaires and shrinking a corporate tax credit program benefiting special interests and costing the state billions of dollars. Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, regularly attacks public-sector unions and has led a campaign to cut their members’ health and pension benefits.

New Jersey’s Democratic establishment, however, faces challenges by progressive candidates in a July 7 primary. Across the state, progressives are running against incumbents for congressional seats as well as county-level positions that control spending and the administration of elections. These races will test the political establishment’s power in the context of a pandemic and economic crisis that has hit New Jersey hard.

By Julia Sass Rubin, The American Prospect, June 26, 2020