- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The sleepy New Jersey governor’s race got a jolt Monday night after an undercover sting video appeared to show Gov. Phil Murphy‘s campaign consultant suggesting the Democratic incumbent would push statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandates after the election.

The video was released by the conservative activist organization Project Veritas, which has become known for its efforts to target Democratic campaigns with its undercover videos in the past.

The new video features political consultant Wendy Martinez, whose firm Atabey Consulting has received more than $60,000 in payment from the campaign as of now.

Ms. Martinez is featured in the video with Matthew Urquijo, manager of Forward 2021, a coordinated campaign paid for by the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. The two are unwittingly talking to a Project Veritas operative about when Mr. Murphy plans to establish a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy.  

He is going to do it, but he couldn’t do it before the elections. Because of the independents and the undecided,” Ms. Martinez says in Spanish to the operative, later adding that “right now is about him winning.”

“Not that he won’t [get elected], but I think there are some people that, you know, might push back,” Mr. Urquijo says.

“Because they are all into all the s—-: ‘My rights, my s—-,’ and they don’t care if they kill everybody,” says Ms. Martinez, apparently referring to opponents of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“I think the problem is right now — because it’s election season — he is not going to have people say, like, ‘We’re gonna have a mandate now,’ ” Mr. Urquijo says. “Because, you know, for some people that’s going to piss them off. I think once, you know, we have a win, he’s like, ‘All right, guns blazing, like, ‘Who cares? I’m in it. Let’s do the mandates. Let’s do this, X, Y and Z.’”

Ms. Martinez is also a member on a subcommittee of Gov. Murphy‘s Restart and Recovery Advisory Council, which advises the governor on COVID-19 policy.

New Jersey Republicans are looking for an opportunity to take a last-minute hit at Mr. Murphy before voters go to the polls Tuesday. The reelection contest has been a relatively smooth ride for the Democratic incumbent against his Republican opponent Jack Ciattarelli, polls suggest. 

“This extremely disturbing video appears to confirm what the Murphy campaign has been hinting at — and the NJGOP has been warning about — throughout the summer: that a second Murphy term will bring about the same type of vaccine passports seen in Bill de Blasio’s New York, burdening already suffering businesses and discriminating against minority communities in which immunization rates are lower,” said NJGOP Executive Director Tom Szymanski.

He continued, “From the beginning of the pandemic, Phil Murphy has been following political science, as opposed to actual science. Purposefully hiding this life-changing information until after the election is as deceitful as it gets. Phil Murphy must immediately state his intentions on this matter before voting ends next week and disclose whether or not data of thousands of New Jerseyans already entered into the Docket App has been harvested for the purpose of implementing a vaccine passport.”

New Jersey Democrats shot back through their Twitter account that Mr. Ciaterelli “has made it clear that he supports the far-right extremists who harassed and physically intimidated two Latina staff members of our team.”

New Jersey Democratic Party officials alleged Project Veritas operatives, including group founder and leader James O’Keefe, lured two campaign staff members into a parking garage by claiming a staffer’s car had been hit and proceeded to ambush and harass them. 

“It is absolutely outrageous for the safety of our team to be compromised by luring women into a dark parking garage and ambushing them, causing serious distress and trauma at a time when people working on all campaigns should be allowed to do their jobs without fearing for their safety. This is criminal harassment, plain and simple,” Murphy for Governor Campaign Manager Mollie Binotto and NJDSC Executive Director Saily Avelenda said in a joint statement. “We are calling on Jack Ciattarelli to immediately disavow the conduct of these far-right extremists and join us in denouncing James O’Keefe.” 

New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman Jamel Holley, known for routinely bucking his party when it comes to how the Murphy administration responds to the pandemic, tweeted:

“It has come to my attention that Governor Murphy will impose #Covid_19  vaccine mandates statewide if he is re-elected.” He added, “Public health is not a political issue. Medical decisions are a choice and should be treated as such for every individual. Not election timing.”

The New Jersey governor’s race has tightened up in the last few weeks. According to a PIX11 News, NewsNation, Emerson College poll released last week, Mr. Murphy leads Mr. Ciattarelli, but his Republican opponent is not far behind.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, shows Mr. Murphy barely ahead of Mr. Ciattarelli 52%-48% with undecided voters.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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