Phil Murphy, the front-runner in the race among Democrats to represent the party in November’s general election for governor, met with horsemen and horsewomen on May 4 at Deo Volente Farms and said he is committed to helping struggling New Jersey industries – including horse racing – regain their edge both locally and nationally.
Murphy met with a large group at a fundraiser sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey and TrotPAC, the organization’s political action committee, and hosted by Deo Volente Farms, and said it was time for the equine industry to get back on its feet to the benefit of all residents of the Garden State.
“There are a couple of industries in this state that we used to own,” Murphy said. “The equine industry is on the list. And it’s high on the list. And (what has happened) doesn’t make any sense. You look at the thousands of jobs, the millions in economic benefit, and the open space benefits that are provided to a state that is the densest state in the nation. Getting the open space and environment right is a pass/fail test; you can’t get a B-plus in that in New Jersey.
“I’m an optimist. I believe the position we’re in as a state is due to a failure of leadership. It’s not that the people got bad or our assets got impaired or our prospects got diminished. This is bad leadership. I believe the right leader with the right priorities, who is committed to governing this state and nothing else, goes a long way toward beginning the process to getting back on our feet.
“We’re going to get our edge back.”
Murphy, a Monmouth County resident and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, leads in the polls for the Democratic nomination for governor. The Democratic and Republican primaries are June 6. Murphy also leads likely Republican nominee Kim Guadagno in the race to succeed Gov. Chris Christie in November’s general election.
At the Deo Volente event, Murphy was introduced to attendees by Deo Volente Farms CEO and SBOA Treasurer Mike Gulotta and Richard Codey, a former governor and current state senator who has endorsed Murphy. Codey has long been an advocate for the racing industry and earlier this year co-sponsored legislation to permit Historic Racing at the state’s racetracks and off-track-wagering facilities.
Gulotta first met Murphy through Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis.
“Since then, I got to know Phil and I can honestly say that each and every time I speak with him, I discover something new that I like about him,” Gulotta said. “The last time we spoke we shared our mutual backgrounds about growing up under modest conditions. His comment to me was ‘That’s why you have your great attitude and that’s why you care about people.’ Right back at you Phil. Your deep concern for people is evidence that you will be a great governor indeed.
“Obviously, I care about the racing and breeding industry in New Jersey. We must level the playing field for New Jersey horsemen and give them the chance to continue to work here. Thank you to the many horsemen here today for your help in supporting our next governor.
“New Jersey used to be the equine leader in this country in racing and breeding. We held our preeminent position until New York and Pennsylvania stole our thunder. I am totally confident that we can take back our title and that we can re-emerge as the best there is.”
During a question-and-answer period, SBOA Director and TrotPAC Chairman Anthony Perretti made an emotional plea to Murphy to support the equine industry.
“I lost the biggest farm in the state,” said Perretti, referring to the nearly 400-acre breeding farm founded by his father Bill in the mid-1980s. “(Jeff Gural) built a $110 million track (at the Meadowlands). Many of the horsemen in this room who came out tonight came from other states to race and work and make a living here.
“We were the best. We were the best in the country. These people’s livings are on the line. I want you to commit to us that you’re going to stand behind us.”
Murphy responded, “Absolutely.”
“Some things are really hard to figure out. Recognizing the importance of this industry to the state, both historically and what it can be again, is not exactly hard to figure out,” he said. “The question of how you do it, I’ll look to the folks who have forgotten more about it than I’ll ever know. But I’m really confident.”
Murphy agreed that part of the job ahead involves making the public aware of the value of the equine industry as a whole. But the first order of business is to get the industry heading in the right direction.
“I would want to get the public policy, working with guys like Gov. Codey, in place that allows the industry to see the daylight that it’s going to get back on its feet,” Murphy said. “When real progress is being made, then you start to figure out how promote it to make sure everyone realizes the totality of the industry. Making folks understand the jobs, revenue, pride, open space. There are a lot of elements that are complete consistent with what we should be as a state.”