NEW JERSEY - New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was inaugurated for a second term Tuesday, taking the oath of office under strict COVID-19 testing, vaccination and masking requirements that his administration established.
Murphy was reelected in a close race in November, becoming the first Democrat to win reelection in more than four decades, winning in part on a slate of accomplishments he and the Democrat-led Legislature achieved, including a higher minimum wage, recreational marijuana legalization and paid sick leave.
He campaigned as a vocal progressive and warned in campaign stops that a GOP victory would push the Democrat-leaning state much farther to the right than many of its residents.
Tuesday, the 56th governor of the Garden State aimed at putting the divisive language behind him.
"I renew my pledge to be the governor for all of New Jersey, the governor for everyone who voted for me, and for everyone who did not," he said.
Murphy's narrow victory buoyed Democrats, but was still bittersweet for the party, which lost former Senate President Steve Sweeney in his southern New Jersey district, along with six Assembly seats. Republicans netted one new seat in the Senate as well.
On Twitter Murphy wrote: "This is my vow to everyone in New Jersey: Every single day I will fight for you. Every single day I will work to move our state forward. Every single day I will dedicate to making New Jersey the state where the future works for each of us."
Republicans have cast the election as a sign voters are fed up with Democratic control of the state that has 1 million more Democrats than Republicans. They argue Democrats have overstepped on COVID-19 countermeasures and made the state costly because of high taxes and other business regulations.
Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nicholas Scutari have said they heard voters' message loud and clear: they want the state to be more affordable. New Jersey has among the highest property and business taxes in the country.
Murphy concentrated a chunk of his state of the state address last week on affordability, specifically arguing that the policies he pursued in his first term contributed to making the state more taxpayer friendly: expanding taxpayer-financed pre-K, making community college similarly free for some residents, along with phasing in a $15 an hour minimum wage.
The swearing-in ceremony at the art deco War Memorial in the state capital was pared down, with fewer attendees who were required to show vaccination and booster proof, along with a negative coronavirus test. Masking was also required inside.
Masking isn't required in most places in the state, though there are exceptions for state buildings, schools and day cares. Some businesses still ask customers to mask up.
Last week, Murphy signed a new public health emergency declaration permitting him to keep mask mandates in place at day cares and schools.
Outside the venue, temporary tents for COVID-19 check-ins replaced a battery of military cannons that four years ago fired a salute.
Taking the oath alongside Murphy was Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who was also reelected in November. She's the state's second lieutenant governor, a post created after Senate presidents had to step in to serve as governor over the last nearly two decades.
Also on the stage for the inauguration were former governors, including Murphy's immediate predecessor Republican Chris Christie as well as Democrat Jon Corzine.