By David Madden

by KYW’s David Madden

JERSEY CITY, NJ (CBS) —  — A stunner of sorts in the world of New Jersey politics this week, as Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop announced he would not run for Governor next year.

Fulop threw his support behind fellow Democrat Phil Murphy, a former ambassador to Germany in the Obama administration.

Monmouth University political analyst Patrick Murray offers a possible explanation for Fulop’s change of heart. “We started hearing some rumblings from Jersey City about some things that may embarrass him, some relationships that he had,” Murray told KYW Newsradio.

There’s also talk that Fulop might be called as a witness at the federal Bridgegate trial in Newark. He’ll seek re-election as Jersey City mayor next year and is not ruling out a future gubernatorial run.

Murray sees this move as giving Murphy the upper hand, for now, in next June’s party primary, since he’ll be better able to consolidate the North Jersey vote than the other three potential opponents.

“As of right now, this helps give Murphy the upper hand,” Murray said. “He’s not the “clear the deck” favorite, but certainly the favorite right now.”

The reason? There are more Democrats north of Trenton than south, and party leaders up north could give Murphy a favorable ballot position in next June’s primary.

Of course, there’s time for the others, particularly Senate President Steve Sweeney, to make up ground. North Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski are, like Sweeney, pondering runs for Governor.

Several Republicans, topped by Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, are said to be considering bids to succeed Chris Christie, who is barred from seeking a third term.

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