MOUNTAIN LAKES – Part of the crowd buzz last night at the Zeris Inn concerned the whereabouts of Morris County Freeholder James Murray, who evidentlyhad his own reason for not beingin attendance at Chris Christie’s formal kickoff.
It’sbecauseMurray is himself mulling a bid for governor.
“He called me the day before yesterday and I asked him if he was going to Chris’s event,” said Morris County Republican Chairman John Sette.
The chairman recalled Murray tellinghim he was going to stay neutral and when Sette asked him why, Murray spilled it.
“He told me, ‘I’m thinking about running for governor because I think I can appeal to Democrats and Independents,'” Sette said.
A retired engineer from Chester Township, Murray shocked the establishment in the 2007 Republican Primarywhen he knocked off Freeholder John Inglesino, a close friend and confidante of Christie’s.
Last night at the Zeris, eyes-rolling allies of the former U.S. Attorneylaughed at the notion that maybe now Murray believes he can actually take down Christie, who didhis ownanti-party establishment head-butting in office as a freeholder in the 1990s.
Any residue of that oft-cited troubled tenure was not in evidence last night as Republicans welcomedthe former U.S. Attorney back to the Morris fold as if he were a conquering hero.
Involved in county politics since 1982, Sette rejoiced at the county’sshow of approval for the Mendham-based Christie, saying, “Jim Murray can run for governor if he likes. It’s a free country. But I never saw so many people in my life as there were at the Zeris last night, and I never saw so many young people. I think it’s great for the GOP.”
Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham), who first ran for the Assembly on a doomed ticket with Christie in 1995, is also in the race for governor and -like Murray -did not attend his rival’s kickoff event.