Gov. Murphy takes over reins of Democratic Governors Association

Posted: Updated:

Gov. Phil Murphy is taking over the helm of the national arm in charge of electing Democrats to governorships.

Murphy was in San Francisco on Tuesday to officially take over as head of the Democratic Governors Association. He succeeds Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The chairmanship will give Murphy national visibility through the 2020 election cycle as he works to fundraise for Democratic governors and Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Several New Jersey governors have become the chairs of their respective party’s governors’ associations, including Murphy’s predecessor Chris Christie.

"Because so many big-money donors are in New Jersey, are in the metropolitan area around New Jersey, the last several governors have been involved in these organizations,” says political expert Micah Rasmussen, of the Rebovich Institute at Rider University.

But Rasmussen says that accepting this position does come with some risks. Christie spent 148 full or partial days out of the state in 2014 when he was head of the Republican Governors Association, and Democrats criticized him for it.

"If you're not here, you're not managing the crisis. If you're not going through the same thing we're all going through - the electricity being out for everybody or the roads being bad - then you can't possibly manage the situation,” Rasmussen says.

But Murphy says that he will remain loyal to the people of New Jersey.

"At the moment I'm remaining, and will continue to do so, at the bridge of the ship,” Murphy said during a news conference on Monday.

The governor postponed his trip to California so that he could deal with a snowstorm that dropped 10 inches of snow on parts of the state and left thousands without power.

"I'm here not just in words, but in action, for New Jersey,” Murphy said.

"He's also, let's face it, a first-term governor and first-term governors certainly know they need to keep their eye on the ball and need to be on top of things because they're thinking about the re-election,” Rasmussen says.

Rasmussen says that if Murphy can help Democrats win gubernatorial races, he can gain political capital on a national level.

"The amount of money that was raised while Christie was the Republican Governors Association chair was pretty large,” he says. “The amount of money that went into Republican campaigns across the country was pretty large. And I'd expect you'd see the same thing with Murphy."

Gov. Murphy is expected to return from California on Wednesday morning. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver is acting governor whenever Murphy is out of state.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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