Brent Johnson
2018-01-16
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

You have a new governor, New Jersey.

Phil Murphy, a Democrat entering elected office for the first time, was sworn in as the Garden State's 56th governor just before noon Tuesday during a ceremony at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton.

Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and multimillionaire former Wall Street executive, succeeded Chris Christie, a Republican who left office after eight years.

Surrounded by his family, Murphy -- a 60-year-old Middletown resident -- was sworn in by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in the midst of a festive ceremony.

Murphy put his hand on the same bible that President John F. Kennedy -- his political hero and fellow Massachusetts native -- used to be sworn in 57 years ago.

In a 33-minute inaugural address that brimmed with optimism, Murphy echoed his campaign slogan and consistently vowed "a fairer, stronger New Jersey."

"We can once again be the state that leads the nation in progressive policies and puts commons sense and our residents first in line," said Murphy who is the first Democrat to hold the job since 2010, when Christie took office after beating then-Gov. Jon Corzine.

Meet Your New Governor: Phil Murphy
Murphy also took aim once again at President Donald Trump, a Republican he has widely criticized and vowed to combat. The new governor said he would resist "Washington's all-out assault on New Jersey"

"This is not as much a battle between Democrats and Republicans but a battle between right and wrong," Murphy said to cheers.

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver was sworn in as New Jersey's second lieutenant governor, as well -- and received a standing ovation when she noted that she is New Jersey's "first woman of color serving in a statewide office."

Christie leaves the first New Jersey governor to serve two full terms -- the most allowed by state law -- since Tom Kean in the 1980s.

The Republican leaves a mixed legacy. He instituted a 2 percent cap that slowed property tax growth, saw unemployment drop, waged a high-profile battle against opioid addiction, and became a national political figure. But Christie exits with the lowest approval ratings of any governor in state history.

Murphy, meanwhile, inherits a state with the highest property taxes in the country, one of the nation's most underfunded public-worker pension systems, and a transportation system plagued by delays and aging infrastructure.

The new governor thanked Christie for his public service and highlighted that his battle against the opioid epidemic is "worth applauding and continuing."

"And I intend to do so," Murphy said.

Minutes later, Murphy -- who beat Republican Kim Guadagno, the outgoing lieutenant governor, in November's election to win the job -- outlined how he would roll back many of Christie's policy decisions, from defunding women's clinics to backing off climate change efforts.

"To my partners in the Legislature: I ask you to send me the bills, among others, to reaffirm our support for women's health and Planned Parenthood; to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; to promote equal pay for women; to give every worker the peace of mind of earned sick leave; to tear down barriers to voting; and, to strengthen our gun laws," Murphy said.

"And, I promise you now that they will be met with a signing ceremony instead of a veto pen," he added -- a reference to Christie many vetoes and his record of defeating veto override attempts.

Christie eliminated $7.5 million in funding for family planning clinics, including some run by Planned Parenthood. Clinics later closed and cut their hours.

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