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New Jersey’s Murphy to spotlight youth mental health as he begins chairing bipartisan governors’ group

EXCLUSIVE – PORTLAND, MAINE – Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey is confident that Democrats and Republicans will “find a lot of common ground” in the year ahead as he steers the bipartisan National Governors Association.

Murphy, in a digital exclusive interview with Fox News on the eve of taking over as NGA chair, highlighted that during his tenure as vice-chair the past year “we’ve been able to find common ground on a lot of stuff, whether it’s computer science, education, infrastructure, even school safety and gun safety, most recently coming out of these tragedies.”

On Friday, as Murphy succeeds GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas as NGA chair, he’ll set his agenda for the organization, which represents the interests of the 55 state and territorial governors. 

“Each chairman gets an initiative,” Murphy noted as he gave Fox News a sneak peek. “Mine is going to be focused on mental health of our youth. What do we do to get them back on their feet coming out of this awful pandemic where we know there’s huge mental health stress and we know there’s huge amounts of learning loss, to bipartisan common ground theme that we all care deeply about. And I’m looking forward to prosecuting that over the next year.”

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Murphy noted that “when you look at the basic tools that we identify, getting our kids more resilient, training educators, moms and dads, to see signs of mental health and what to do about it. Those are all bipartisan concerns that we’re all dealing with in all American states.”

Murphy, a multi-millionaire former Goldman Sachs top executive who later served as ambassador to Germany during President Barack Obama’s administration, was elected New Jersey governor in 2017. But his narrow re-election last November in the heavily blue Garden State was a harbinger of the rough political climate – fueled by record inflation and President Biden’s floundering approval ratings – currently facing the Democrats in this year’s elections.

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“I think we were a little bit of a canary in the coal mine as it were. The environment we saw, the real edge of that environment which is still with us,” Murphy noted. 

He urged Democratic candidates to “focus on the kitchen table – affordability, opportunity, rekindling the American dream, and to “stand firm on values, whether it’s gun safety, whether it’s reproductive freedom, whether it’s voting rights, defending our LGBTQIA community, defending the environment, our precious environment, whatever it might be. Get at that kitchen table, focus on affordability and opportunity and stand strong by our values.”

“I think if we do both of those things, we’ll be able to skate through this. It won’t be easy, but I believe we will be able to,” the governor predicted.

Murphy, who’s a friend and strong supporter of the president, was asked about the slew of polls suggesting that most Americans don’t want Biden to run for reelection in 2024, and a string of stories highlighting a rising tide of Democrats who are urging the president not to seek a second term.

But Murphy said “I think the party will absolutely rally around the president.” And pointing to Biden’s current overseas trip, the governor said “you’ll look at his first moves right now this week alone in the Middle East in Israel. These are smart strategic moves that he’s making. I think he’s doing everything he can on some of the tough issues that we’re facing. I support him unequivocally.”

This photo from Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, shows Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., during a gubernatorial debate at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.

A growing number of political prognosticators look at Murphy as a potential 2024 Democratic White House hopeful should Biden change his mind and announce he won’t seek reelection.

Asked about any national ambitions in the upcoming presidential cycle, Murphy answered that Biden “says he’s running for president. I believe him wholeheartedly and I’m gonna be a thousand percent behind him, period. We’ll leave it at that.”

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