NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi was one of a host of heavy hitters to support the launch Monday of a middle-class advocacy group led by a potential gubernatorial hopeful.

Philip Murphy, a former ambassador to Germany who worked for Goldman Sachs for 20 years, announced the launch of New Start New Jersey, a nonprofit group that will seek to influence policy to strengthen New Jersey’s middle class. Murphy has been the source of speculation that he will run for governor in 2017.

Murphy deflected questions about his plans and said the group would stay “as far from politics as possible.”

“That’s a million years from now,” he said. “The next governor puts his hand on the Bible in 2018. This is 2014. The middle-class challenges are immediate.”

Bon Jovi’s philanthropic pursuits in his home state have included building affordable housing in Newark and a homeless shelter in Camden. He also opened the Soul Kitchen restaurant in Red Bank, where diners can help subsidize meals for the less fortunate and others can volunteer in exchange for meals. He said he has seen an increase in the number of people in need, particularly among veterans, in the last five years.

“I’ve had people who have come in and said, ‘I was the one who would come in and donate, now I’m the one that’s in need,'” he said.

Among those in attendance Monday at New Jersey Institute of Technology were former Govs. Brendan Byrne and Tom Kean, NAACP President Cornell Brooks, outgoing Rep. Rush Holt and his successor elected last week, Bonnie Watson Coleman.

–From news services