|Majority Whip of the New Jersey General Assembly from the 33rd Legislative District|
|Assumed office |
January 14, 2014
Serving with Annette Chaparro
|Preceded by||Sean Connors|
Ruben J. Ramos
|Deputy Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey|
March 2, 2012 – June 30, 2013
|Preceded by||Leona Beldini|
|Succeeded by||John Thieroff|
|Commissioner & Chairman,|
Jersey City Housing Authority
|Assumed office |
October 22, 2008
|Preceded by||Lori Serrano|
|Born||July 15, 1984|
Gangtok, Sikkim, India
|Residence||Jersey City, New Jersey|
|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania, MLA |
Seton Hall Law School, JD
Thomas Edison State University, BA
|Branch/service||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||2001–2009|
Raj Mukherji is the Majority Whip of the New Jersey General Assembly. He was first elected to serve as a State Assemblyman in the New Jersey Legislature in 2013 and represents the 33rd Legislative District. He is also a lawyer, medical cannabis and healthcare executive, former Deputy Mayor of Jersey City, former municipal prosecutor, and political science professor. In 2015 and 2017, Mukherji was reelected to a second and third term, respectively. He is the only former Marine and the only Asian American in the General Assembly.
At 28, Mukherji on a ticket with Carmelo Garcia won a six-way Democratic primary election for the Assembly by a 36-point margin in 2013 and won the November general election by a 20-point margin, becoming the second South Asian legislator in state history (after Upendra J. Chivukula). In 2016 and 2017, Mukherji was identified by POLITICO as the most prolific lawmaker in the state because of his primary sponsorship of more bills signed into law than any other legislator.  Mukherji serves as Vice Chair of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee and serves on the Assembly Budget Committee.
New Jersey's 33rd Legislative District includes the Hudson County municipalities of Jersey City, Union City, Hoboken, and Weehawken. It is the most densely populated and ethnically diverse legislative district in the state.
Early life, education, and career
Mukherji is the son of Indian American immigrants who arrived from Calcutta in 1970. According to news accounts, he 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 – an accountant and musician – could no longer work as a result of his health but could not afford health coverage without employment.
Labeled a "wunderkind" by the media, Mukherji was previously the CEO of an Internet consulting and software development company that he founded while in the sixth grade. Mukherji later sold the company to a federal contractor to enlist in the Marines two weeks after the September 11 attacks at age 17, where he served as a reservist in military intelligence. The young entrepreneur withdrew from high school at 15 to enroll in an early college program at Bard College at Simon's Rock, eventually earning his bachelor's degree from Thomas A. Edison State University. He also holds a masters from the University of Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Seton Hall Law School, and he has performed on Broadway.
At 19, Raj cofounded a public affairs firm that he grew into the state's third largest lawyer-lobbying firm, reportedly through his ties to New Jersey Democratic establishments and the Obama administration. He has also been a real estate developer and healthcare entrepreneur, brokering hospital sales and owning a surgery center and other healthcare investments. In 2011, he was named an annual "Legends" honoree by the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. He has starred on an episode of MTV's Room Raiders and has appeared as a guest commentator on various television news programs.
Prior public service
At 24, Mukherji was appointed by the Mayor of Jersey City and confirmed by the City Council to replace Lori Serrano (who had been removed and was later charged with corruption) as the youngest Commissioner and Chairman to ever serve on the Jersey City Housing Authority, the state's second largest public housing authority and a $70 million agency serving over 16,000 residents and over 6,700 households. During Mukherji's tenure, the JCHA was applauded by HUD for attaining the highest score for Section 8 management among similar agencies in the state. The agency was also showered with federal grants and aid from the Obama administration, which dispatched then-U.S. Secretary of HUD Shaun Donovan to Jersey City on multiple occasions to announce tens of millions in competitive federal grants the agency had won.
At 27, Mukherji was tapped to fill a vacancy as Deputy Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, the state's second largest city with a $500 million operating budget. According to The Jersey Journal, while Deputy Mayor, Mukherji declined the $110,056 salary and a city-issued car, instead opting to earn one dollar per year due to "the austere economic climate."
Mukherji was previously appointed by then-U.S. Senator Jon Corzine to his Military Academy Board in 2003. In 2004, Governor Jim McGreevey appointed him to the Governor's Council on Volunteerism and Community Service. He was also a Superior Court-appointed member of the Juvenile Conference Committee.
In his first term, Mukherji has been a primary sponsor of dozens of bills that passed both houses and were signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, including:
- Enacting a comprehensive, bipartisan overhaul of the state's outdated and ineffective bail system and expanding legal aid for low-income New Jerseyans;
- Combating the state's heroin, opiate, and prescription drug addiction epidemic by requiring physicians and pharmacists to access the state's Prescription Monitoring Program to prevent "doctor shopping;"
- Making New Jersey the first state in the United States to enact a ban on ivory commerce (in an effort to thwart profits for poachers and wildlife traffickers and to protect elephants and other endangered or threatened species), which effort garnered public support for Mukherji's ivory ban legislation by actress Meryl Streep and musician Billy Joel and inspired similar prohibitions in other states;
- Legislation expanding the state's Drug Court programs and creating a substance abuse recovery housing program at NJ's four-year public colleges and universities with on-campus housing in order to provide a supportive substance-free dormitory environment that recognizes the unique risks and challenges faced by recovering students, along with other legislation expanding access to mental health and substance abuse treatment and recovery services;
- Repealing prohibitions on sports betting in New Jersey to help Atlantic City's gaming industry rebound;
- "The Parkinson's Disease Public Awareness and Education Act," a first-in-the-nation law dedicating resources to create a public education and outreach campaign for Parkinson's disease diagnosis and treatment, inspiring a similar effort in Kansas;
- Combating bedbugs by requiring sanitation, protective, and labeling procedures in the sale of used mattresses and boxsprings;
- Legislation improving prison addiction recovery programs (allowing certain drug treatment programs to operate in state and county jails) to help break the cycle of recidivism;
- Creating criminal penalties for fatal hit-and-run boating accidents;
- Improving the state's higher education system, develop an advanced cyberinfrastructure plan, and initiate a Big Data consortium; and
- Securing state infrastructure investments for his home county of Hudson.
Other proposed laws sponsored and championed by Mukherji, which advanced during the 2014–15 legislative session, included:
- Legislation expanding access to healthcare, such as a bill expanding access to mammograms for adopted women, requiring that health insurers provide benefits coverage for adopted women under age 40 who may be at increased risk for breast cancer but lack access to their family histories; prioritization in the fiscal appropriations act of Medicaid and charity care funding to help providers care for underprivileged, underinsured, and uninsured patients; expansion of Medicaid resources for substance abuse prevention and addiction recovery programs to help combat the state's heroin and opiate epidemic; empowering teens to seek mental health treatment; and reclassifying substance abuse and addiction as mental illness to allow for mandatory treatment, along with related assistance for families coping with addiction and recovery;
- During the legislative budget process, aligning with prioritization of the middle class and working families, bolstering the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, reducing property taxes in the budget, and—calling it "very expensive to die in New Jersey" and decrying the effect on small family-owned businesses that may have to sell off assets to pay estate taxes—Mukherji has called for relaxing the estate tax threshold in New Jersey;
- Legislation concerning veterans and service members, such as bills to make it easier for vets to access services; a bill allowing the children of activated reservists or National Guard members to remain in the same school district regardless of active duty relocations; the Wounded Warrior Caregivers Relief Act, which would provide income tax credits to family caregivers of disabled vets; legislation creating a financial planning assistance program for disabled veterans and their caregivers; and a bill raising the income eligibility cap to receive respite care for certain veterans;
- Legislation aimed at making college more affordable and more attainable for NJ students;
- Expanding unemployment benefits for struggling job-seekers, restructuring the state's corporate incentive programs to create jobs and bolster partnerships between the private sector and higher education;
- Improving public safety, such as a bill to halt the flow of illegal firearms into New Jersey by pinpointing epicenters of the problem and creating a database of all firearms that were seized, forfeited, or found by law enforcement and used in a crime; toughening penalties for possessing or using defaced firearms and criminalizing such use to injure a police officer; combat the state's rapidly growing heroin problem; and bills toughening penalties for animal cruelty and protecting the rights of animals;
- Providing tuition aid and financial aid eligibility for immigrant students previously ineligible;
- Requiring certain employers to provide paid sick leave; and
- Incentivizing renewable energy investment and green building practices.
Mukherji became embroiled in controversy when he was tapped to be the new Chairman of the Jersey City Housing Authority. Amidst his nomination, critics opposed the Housing Authority's plans to demolish and redevelop a six-tower 549-unit public housing project known as Montgomery Gardens. Later, while under Mukherji's leadership, the agency came under fire for its strict "One-Strike" eviction policy, enabled by federal legislation enacted under President Clinton, allowing housing authorities to evict entire households where a resident is charged with a serious crime (without being convicted). While defending the legislation, Mukherji convened public hearings prior to ordering an overhaul of the One-Strike policy, telling Jersey City Independent that the policy had "served as a deterrent and important tool to reduce drug-related and violent criminal activity in public housing (...but) certain revisions may be appropriate to ensure an equitable policy and eviction process... We want to be fair and equitable to criminal defendants, as the presumption of innocence must be sacrosanct, while being mindful that our foremost responsibility is to do all that we can to keep our tenants safe."
As a teenager, Mukherji pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of a fake identification in 2004 that was used for underage drinking.
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