He spent years rallying support for a run as New Jersey governor, but this afternoon Mayor Steve Fulop announced that he would not be seeking the Democratic nomination in 2017.
During a 2 p.m. news conference outside City Hall, Fulop threw his support behind ex-Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. ambassador Phil Murphy, who announced his gubernatorial run in May.
“Hopefully today is a meaningful step forward in the state of New Jersey and also in Jersey City,” Fulop says.
It’s an incredible development having Fulop back out of what is expected to be a crowded governor’s race and many of the mayor’s closest allies knew nothing about his decision.
The news comes as Fulop gets ready to testify in the Bridgegate trial. Allegedly, Fulop was among the Democratic mayors targeted after he declined to endorse Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election bid, prosecutors say.
Text messages and emails were entered into evidence as the government questioned star witness, David Wildstein.
The former Port Authority Christie appointee pleaded guilty to several conspiracy charges in connection with the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.
Texts from August 2013 show Wildstein discussing retaliating against Fulop.
This is a real blow to Hudson County Democrats, who were hoping to have a friend in Trenton in 2018.
The 2017 Jersey City mayoral and City Council races could be transformed as well, with Fulop allies who planned on running having to reconsider if Fulop wants re-election.
It’s good news for Murphy, however.
The executive and Fulop have been after the same North Jersey power brokers and liberal voters for support.
Fulop, 39, became mayor in 2013 after two terms as a councilman.
Soon after, people tossed around his name as a possible gubernatorial candidate.
Critics have long complained that Fulop’s focus has been on that gubernatorial bid rather than on being mayor.
He hosted Democratic barbecues in Paramus and Freehold the past two Saturdays to connect with voters.
“That he didn’t even make it to the starting line is kind of a shock,” Matthew Hale, who teaches political science at Seton Hall University told The Jersey Journal.
At one time, Hale says Fulop’s background and personality seemed to give him a lock on the nomination.
That prompted a response from Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), also believed to be mulling a 2017 gubernatorial run:
“Only those who don’t know what’s going on in NJ politics thought Fulop had a lock on the nomination.”
When asked by Hudson TV, State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto added, “The mayor had never declared, there were a lot of assumptions that he’d be running.
“I’m chairman of the party and (as recently as a week ago) there was no candidate. The only declared candidate at this time is Phil Murphy.”