Thousands of people from throughout Hudson County greeted Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor, when he walked through the doors of Schuetzen Park on Nov. 4.
Although billed “a very special party” to say thanks to members of the Brian Stack Civic Association, the event became a who’s-who of county political dignitaries as well as the usual boisterous army of Stack supporters.
“If anyone had any doubts about Stack’s political organization, this would dispel them,” said Murphy after he had made his way through the throng, with dance music throbbing and dancers filling the floor in front of the stage.
This, of course, was Murphy’s first real taste of Stack’s popularity, and for a moment, he simply stood onstage and stared out at the crowd’s unabashed support for Stack, cheering and waving fists in the air.
Murphy seems to have exploded onto the state scene overnight, but he’s been a key player in the Democratic Party for years, and is seen as a progressive candidate. He served as U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013 and served as finance chair for the Democratic National Committee for a time.
Like former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who was first introduced to Hudson County at an event held in Schutzen Park in 1999, Murphy has worked for Goldman Sachs, holding several high level positions during his 23-year career before retiring in 2006.
“This year we’re going to give away 22,000 turkeys, not just to needy in Union City but to needy anywhere.” — Brian Stack.
Murphy appears to be well suited to deal with the public pension system, one of the most pressing state problems. He served on a task force in 2005 to deal with some of the issues raised by the pension crisis, and concluded that the issue needed to be addressed in a bipartisan manner, a far cry from many of the proposals offered before and since he issued that report.
Not only did Murphy oversee national Democrat’s financing, he is also known as a large Democratic fundraiser and supports numerous charities, including those dealing with troubled teens and domestic violence victims.
In contrast to Gov. Christopher Christie, Murphy is very versed on national education problems and has proposed progressive solutions.
Murphy was mentioned briefly as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2013, but chose not to run. In 2014, he established a progressive think that called New Start New Jersey that included people like Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer in its membership. He dissolved the think tank after his announcement last May that he would run for governor next year.
He was seen as a dark horse candidate because he faced a number of higher profile potential Democratic candidates including State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, state Senator Ray Lesniak, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Assemblyman John Wisniewksi and others.
In September, Fulop withdrew from the race for governor and endorsed Murphy. This was followed by Sweeney withdrawal and a Murphy endorsement as well. Since then, party endorsements have been flowing in, forcing Lesniak to withdraw. While still not a done deal, Murphy is seen as the presumptive Democratic candidate for governor, with a strong shot at becoming the next governor
In Hudson County, Stack’s endorsement was still in doubt because last year. He brought Sweeney to Union City to help distribute turkeys and promised to endorse Sweeney’s run for governor.
Stack’s party is seen as the kick off to the holiday season. He thanked members of his civic association as well as the residents Union City and his legislative district for the work they did in making the turkey give away possible.
But it always has a political purpose, and it often makes clear just who he intends to support for governor in next year’s election for governor.
“It is my pleasure to introduce and support Phil Murphy,” he told the crowd.
More turkeys to give away this year than ever before
Thousands of residents struggled to get into the always popular party, in a hall that can accommodate hundreds. Among the revelers were political leaders from around the county such as Assemblyman Raj Mukherji , Freeholder Tilo Rivas, Jersey City Board of Education Trustee Joel Torres, Mark Albiez, chief of staff to Jersey City Mayor Fulop, other members of local school boards and councils.
But many of the attendees were ordinary people from Union City, North Bergen, West New York, and Jersey City. Secaucus school board candidate Tom Troyer, a long time teacher in Union City, even made an appearance.
The event featured live and recorded music, food and plenty of dancing as a thank you to the thousands of people who had helped raise funds to buy turkeys that will be given away ahead of Thanksgiving.
For almost two decades, the civic association has given out thousands of turkeys to needy people.
“This year we’re going to give away 22,000 turkeys, not just to needy in Union City but to needy anywhere,” Stack said.
Stack, who serves as mayor of Union City, also serves as state Senator. His district includes nearly half of Jersey City, all of Hoboken, and Weehawken.
The number of turkeys given away has risen steadily over time and this year appears to mark the largest give away so far. The turkeys are paid for by the Brian P. Stack Civic Association. Stack has purchased the turkeys in each of the past several years, however, 22,000 is the most ever distributed.
“There are a lot of poor families in the city and we want them to have a turkey on Thanksgiving Day,” said Stack, saying that these turkeys will go to anyone in need.
The turkeys usually arrive by truck from the farms a few days before Thanksgiving, and are distributed by volunteers throughout the area, in some cases off loading boxes of turkeys in tenement buildings, where volunteers deliver them floor by floor, apartment by apartment.
The son of a train conductor, Stack grew up near the Old Yardley soap factory on Palisades Avenue and attended the now-demolished Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Union City.
With redistricting, Stack’s senatorial district has expanded into more of Jersey City, and with additional needy people, his operation has expanded.
Stack, along with other officials and volunteers, will make house calls to deliver the turkeys and chat with residents in the week or so ahead of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinners are also usually given free of charge for the needy at various locations on Thanksgiving Day.
For more information or to request a turkey, call the Mayor’s Office at (201) 348-5755.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.