Murphy longs for the days of N.J. Republicans Tom Kean Sr. and Christie Whitman. ‘We need sanity.’

Murphy longs for the days of N.J. Republicans Tom Kean Sr. and Christie Whitman. ‘We need sanity.’

Evoking the names of former New Jersey governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday called for the more moderate branch of the Republican Party to “reassert itself” because “we need sanity.”

The current Democratic New Jersey governor made the comments during a television interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” one week before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, in which Republicans are seeking to retake control of Congress from Democrats two years into President Joe Biden’s term.

Co-host Mike Barnicle, a former Boston newspaper columnist, noted to Murphy, a fellow Massachusetts native, that he was “born and raised in a state where there were Republican candidates elected to office who bear no resemblance to existing national candidates.” He then asked Murphy how difficult it is now to “sound a hopeful note about the future” of politics, especially the bipartisan kind.

“New Jersey has been that way, as well,” Murphy said. “In Massachusetts, you had the likes of Bill Weld and Mitt Romney as governor. In New Jersey, you had Christie Todd Whitman and Tom Kean Sr. Really great Americans, all of them. I beg for that brand, that wing of the Republican Party to reassert itself.”

“Frankly, I’m saying this as a Democrat, so it’s perhaps hard to believe,” the governor added. “But it’s far more than about their party. This is about the future of America. We need sanity. We need respect for our institutions. We need folks to abide by the truth and tell the truth, to not make fun of some horrible violent act that happens on the other side of the aisle.”

Murphy has repeatedly criticized right-wing Republicans as being too extreme. At the same time, many Republicans have criticized Murphy, a progressive Democrat, of being too left wing for New Jersey.

Also Tuesday, Murphy was asked his thoughts about the governor’s race in neighboring New York, where Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul is in a tight election against Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Murphy said it’s “frustrating as heck” that people are not just “saying awful things and questioning our institutions and questioning the facts” but “people are going along with them.”

He also noted that his closer-than-expected victory over Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli in the blue-leaning New Jersey last year “might have been the canary in the coal mine.”

“In other words, previewing a lot of the tightening of races we’re seeing right now,” Murphy said.

He also took a few shots at Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor running for U.S. Senate in neighboring Pennsylvania.

“He’s a resident of Bergen County, New Jersey, not of Pennsylvania,” Murphy said.

Oz’s residency has been a top issue in his race against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for an open Senate seat. Oz lived for 20 years — and still owns a house in — Cliffside Park but registered to vote and bought property in Pennsylvania in recent years as he launched his campaign.

“He’s from Jersey. I just want to make sure everybody knows that,” Murphy added.

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Brent Johnson may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him at @johnsb01.

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