¨I encourage everyone to become involved in the political process. I just remind Republicans that voting day is always on Wednesday,¨ Democrat assemblyman Raj Mukherji said at an on-campus event Monday. Mukherji represents New Jersey’s 33rd District, the state’s most densely populated and ethnically diverse district.
Mukherji founded a software company when he was in sixth grade, which he presided over until joining the Marine Corps at age 17, a few days after 9/11. He returned to New Jersey to fund what became the third-largest lobbying firm in the state, and to a prestigious path in public service which has included a stint as deputy mayor of Jersey City.
Mukherji’s comments were often accentuated by the lively laugh of the audience. He started by asking all audience members for their names and hometowns.
¨Sara Lee, Indiana.¨
¨I love your cakes, I really do.¨
¨You three guys must be the Indian population of Orlando, Florida,¨ Mukherji said to a group of males sitting in a section for the Penn South Asian Students Association after they told him their hometowns.
The conversation quickly moved to Mukherji’s support of controversial governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie. “My running mates and I were the only Democratic legislators to support Christie, and I did so because of his remarkable performance in his first term,” Mukherji said. “But I am unwilling to support him on a national level.” Mukherji denied that he had any insider information on the Christie bridge scandal, and said that he would not predict the repercussions of the scandal on Christie’s political career.
Mukherji said that his own most important achievement was securing paid time-off standards that apply to all of New Jersey’s private employers. The bill entitled all employees to one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work.
¨I believe that families should not have to chose between economic stability and being cared for,¨ he said.
As a businessman and a representative of an urban district, Mukherji claimed to be close to business interests. “Despite the folklore around [Paid Time Off], the bill will benefit — not burden — businesses in the state by replacing an inefficient patchwork of similar and more stringent local regulations,” he said.
Mukherji said that he is currently pushing for legalizing sports betting in the state, which would bring a much-needed boost to its lagging game industry. ¨Casinos currently bring in $1 billion in taxes, a substantial portion of the $30 or $40 billion state budget, but their business is being sapped away by neighboring states.”
The assemblyman advised those interested in public service to “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Bills are fleshed out and improved by the give-and-take process of politics, he said. Government, Mukaherji concluded, is the art of compromise.
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect that the Paid Time Off bill mentioned in the tenth paragraph, has not yet been passed. This article has also been updated to clarify that Mukaherji and his running mates were the only Democrats in Congress to support Chris Christie.
Correction: Mukherji served as deputy mayor of Jersey City, not deputy governor. The audience member from Indiana was Sara Lee, not Lucy Lee. The DP regrets the errors.
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