Rob Andrews, the South Jersey congressman who is challenging Senator Frank R. Lautenberg in New Jersey’s June Democratic primary, just appointed his campaign chairman: Michael Murphy, the stepson of former Governor Richard J. Hughes (who served two terms from 1961 to 1969) and himself a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1997.
Murphy is generally one of the good guys in New Jersey politics, but apparently he’s had quite a change of heart when it comes to Andrews.
“Rob has the vision, the energy and the determination to defeat the Republican candidate in November and to go on to become one of our state’s truly great senators,” Murphy said in the press release announcing his appointment as chairman today.
But this is what Murphy thought of Andrews back in ’97, when they both vied with Jim McGreevey for the gubernatorial nomination.
Arguably, Murphy’s ads were the most memorable product of that campaign (he was “the man in the van with the plan” in another spot, which showed him driving around the state surveying various trouble spots). Andrews, then a fourth-term congressman, entered that primary as the overwhelming favorite, with McGreevey penciled in for a distant second. Murphy, who registered at three percent in the first poll taken, surged into contention thanks to his ads (and general disgust with the bush-league bickering between the two front-runners), and — briefly — appeared within striking distance of a monumental upset. But in the June ’97 primary, McGreevey edged out Andrews, 39 to 37 percent, with Murphy pulling 23 percent. By virtue of this stronger-than-expected showing, Murphy was considered a future statewide prospect, but — thanks in no small part to the boss system that governs New Jersey politics and largely prevents competitive primaries — another opportunity never presented itself.