- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The race to replace Republican Gov. Chris Christie got its first official candidate Monday.

“New Jersey’s challenges can’t wait,” said Democrat Phil Murphy, a former United States ambassador to Germany, as he announced in an email and video to supporters that he will run in next year’s primary for the governor’s office.

Murphy previously worked on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs and as a finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee.

Christie’s second and final term runs through the end of 2017, and the governor has been appointed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to lead his transition team if Trump is elected.

“There’s a thirst for a little bit of Harry Truman’s ‘the buck stops with me’ in this state,” Murphy said in an interview.

Last year, Murphy launched an advocacy organization focused on New Jersey’s middle class, New Way for New Jersey. It was seen as a forerunner to a campaign.

Murphy said he announced his campaign Monday after his family decided it was the right thing to do and so he could begin to raise and spend campaign funds.

“I’m taking the unusual step of announcing my candidacy for governor a year ahead of the election because my campaign is not going to be politics as usual,” Murphy said in the video.

He said he and his wife Tammy are loaning the campaign $10 million and he plans to pursue online contributions aggressively.

The race is expected to attract a crowded field of Democrats, including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, state Sen. Ray Lesniak, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assemblyman John Wisniewski. Among Republicans, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are considered likely candidates.

New Way for New Jersey raised $1.44 million and spent $1.42 million as of March 31, according to IRS documents. Most of the group’s contributions came from Murphy and his wife Tammy, who gave $1.43 million, the documents show.

The couple also established a think tank that aims to build up the state’s middle class. New Start New Jersey has held panel discussions this year on the state’s Hispanic population and its infrastructure.

___

This story has been corrected to show the name of an advocacy group is New Way for New Jersey, not New Way New Jersey.

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