Mahen Gunaratna, an architect of Governor Phil Murphy’s communications strategy to get his messages directly to New Jerseyans during a global pandemic, is leaving the administration on June 1 to take a leadership role at one of the largest groups defense of the nation’s gun safety.
Gunaratna will become the director of public affairs and senior vice president of Everytown for Gun Safety, as well as their two local networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action.
But he will remain a key player in Murphy’s political orbit beyond his departure as a board member of Stronger Fairer Forward, a nonprofit issues advocacy group formed by the governor and the first lady Tammy Murphy in February. He will also serve on the board of the Strong Fairer Forward PAC.
Gunaratna joined Murphy’s top staff after the 2017 campaign and has served as the governor’s director of communications since taking office on January 16, 2018. He has worked for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, several members of Congress and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential race before going to work for Murphy.
At the start of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020, Gunaratna played a major role in putting Murphy directly before the state and the nation through regular televised press conferences and interviews on major television and radio stations. national and state.
“Since my first day in the office, Mahen has been one of my closest advisors,” Murphy said. “From delivering vital public health information during a once-in-a-century pandemic to accelerating the growth of our digital and social media engagement, Mahen has brought vision and dynamism to our work.”
Gunaratna was a key player in Murphy’s Poolhouse Strategy, a plan that involved spending less than $20,000 to set up a mini TV studio in Murphy’s home in Monmouth County, which allowed the governor to securing network and cable TV stations that offered him exposure he couldn’t get. through a rapidly shrinking traditional New Jersey press corps.
Murphy’s plan to inform the public about the state’s response to COVID-19 has helped his job approval ratings soar. The communications plan hatched by Gunaratna and others enabled Murphy to weather a Republican tide and become New Jersey’s first Democratic governor in 44 years to be re-elected to a second term.
George Helmy, the governor’s chief of staff, initiates a search process to choose Gunaratna’s successor.
At Everytown, the group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gunaratna will be responsible for executing a national gun safety strategy,
“With his deep experience at all levels of government, Mahen is the right person to help Everytown raise awareness of our work to pass vital laws, create a culture of gun safety and hold the gun industry accountable. both in the public court of opinion and in the court of law,” said Everytown President John Feinblatt. “I am delighted to be working with Mahen, who joins Everytown after leading communications around two gun safety law in New Jersey, which were passed with the help of our army of grassroots volunteers.”
Murphy, a strong gun safety advocate, said he was happy that Gunaratna had the chance to fight for his cause at the national level.
“From closing background check loopholes to strengthening anti-gun trafficking laws to combating the proliferation of phantom guns, Everytown has been a tremendous partner in our mission to promote gun safety. common sense,” Murphy said. “I know Mahen will bring the same energy and sense of purpose he brought to our team as he takes on this new challenge to reduce gun violence nationwide.”
This is the third departure for Murphy’s communications team this year, a common occurrence in a governor’s second term. Dan Bryan, his senior adviser, left to lead Stronger Fairer Forward and the Stronger Fairer Forward PAC. Michael Zhadanovsky is now the communications director for Rob Menendez’s campaign for Congress in New Jersey’s 8th District.
“For too long, the gun lobby has blocked even the most basic safety measures, but thanks to the work of more than eight million supporters across the country, the gun safety movement has made unprecedented progress. Through victories in town halls and school boards, in state homes, in corporate America, in the courts and at the ballot box,” Gunaratna said. “Everytown has helped change the way Americans view this public health threat. I look forward to using my experience and skills to continue to build on these victories and reduce the scourge of gun violence in our country.