- A Democrat from Jersey City, the 37-year-old Indian American was first elected to serve as a state assemblyman in 2013, representing the 33rd Legislative District.
New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji has formally launched his candidacy for the state senate from the newly-drawn 32nd District, which consists of Hoboken and half of Jersey City. According to the Hudson Reporter, Mukherji’s Feb. 18 announcement came “after the state Legislative Appropriation Committee adopted a new map, which made major changes to Hudson County’s districts.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy lost no time in endorsing Mukherji. Murphy issued a statement on Saturday saying, “Over the past eight years, Raj Mukherji has been a tireless fighter for the people of Hudson County, representing some of the most diverse communities in our state. Whether as a job-creating CEO, Deputy Mayor of his beloved Jersey City, local prosecutor, or as a prolific lawmaker, Raj has excelled and championed progressive values and helped shape a stronger and fairer New Jersey.”
Mukherji, 37, a Democrat from Jersey City, is the Majority Whip of the New Jersey General Assembly. He was first elected to serve as a state assemblyman in 2013 and represents the 33rd Legislative District. From 2022, he will serve in the Assembly as Deputy Speaker/Deputy Parliamentarian. Before that, he was deputy mayor of Jersey City and chairman of the Jersey City Housing Authority, the youngest in city history. He is the only South Asian legislator presently serving in the state, the only former Marine presently serving in the New Jersey General Assembly, and the first Bengali state legislator in the United States.
A former Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, Mukherji is a lawyer and healthcare investor and was previously an information technology CEO. His public service experience also includes teaching Constitutional Law as an Adjunct Professor at New Jersey City University and serving as a municipal prosecutor.
“I’m running to serve in the State Senate,” the assemblyman announced in a press release posted on his social media handles. “It has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the people of Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, and Weehawken in the General Assembly for the better part of the last decade and to serve alongside and learn from the constituent services legend and hardest working public servant in America, Brian Stack,” he said. Noting that he is “heartbroken” to be separated from Union City in his new legislative district, Mukherji noted that “much work remains to be done “on behalf of Jersey City and Hoboken. “The goal of securing a brighter tomorrow for my toddler son, Leo, and infant daughter, Liana, has strengthened my resolve to keep fighting for our state. So I’m humbly asking the people of Jersey City and Hoboken to return me to the Legislature, this time in the Senate.”
Along with his announcement, Mukherji mentioned some key endorsements from Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop, State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack.
In the Assembly, Mukherji sits on the Budget Committee, responsible for crafting the state budget (approximately $33 billion in FY 2015), as well as the Commerce and Economic Development and Labor Committees, his website says. “He was a primary sponsor of numerous bills focusing on economic development and job creation; protecting seniors and expanding their access to healthcare and essential services; infrastructure; public safety; veterans; social justice; addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery; animal welfare; and a myriad of other issues of importance to his constituents,” it adds.
The son of immigrants, Assemblyman Mukherji supported himself through high school, college, and grad school as an emancipated minor when economic circumstances forced his parents to return to their native India. After suffering a pituitary tumor, stroke, and other ailments, Mukherji’s father — Asim Mukherji, an accountant and musician — could no longer work as a result of his health but could not afford health coverage without employment.
In middle school Mukherji founded an Internet consulting and software development company, grew it, and later sold it to a larger technology company to enlist in the Marines two weeks after 9/11 at age 17, where he served in military intelligence as a reservist. The young entrepreneur withdrew from high school after completing ninth grade to focus on his business endeavors and support himself after his parents were forced to move to India. At 15, he enrolled in an early college program at Bard College at Simon’s Rock and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State University, an individualized Master of Liberal Arts focused on national security from the University of Pennsylvania, and a law degree (Juris Doctor), cum laude, from Seton Hall Law School, which he attended on a Chancellor’s Scholarship.
At 19, he founded a public affairs firm that he grew into the state’s third-largest lawyer-lobbying firm while learning the inner workings of the State House and becoming fascinated by the policymaking process. “While serving as the firm’s Managing Partner, Mukherji advocated to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey and replace it with life imprisonment without parole; lobbied for LGBTI equality; worked with the NJEDA and the Business Action Center in successfully advocating for job creation and tax credit incentives; successfully facilitated complex transactions, including the sales of nursing homes and hospitals; and secured millions in grants or appropriations for hospitals and nonprofit clients and advocated to expand Medicaid and charity care for the underprivileged, a cause especially dear to his heart due to his father’s narrative,” according to his website.
Mukherji entered public service at age 24. He was appointed commissioner and chairman of the Jersey City Housing Authority. At the state’s second-largest housing authority, he earned nationwide acclaim for his oversight and various reforms at the $75 million agency serving over 16,000 residents and approximately 6,700 households. At 27, he was appointed deputy mayor of Jersey City, where he served from 2012-13. A year later, he won a six-way Democratic primary election for Assembly by a 36-point margin in 2013 and won the November general election by a 20-point margin. He was re-elected in 2015.