By John Celock
Voters in six New Jersey legislative districts will go to the polls this November to elect seven state Assembly members and one state senator in special elections.
The special elections have been triggered by Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) appointments of five lawmakers to positions in state government, the election of a new lieutenant governor, the death of one assemblyman and an assemblyman being elevated to an open state Senate seat. This will include one district having to fill its Senate seat and both Assembly seats.
All of the seats will be filled in special election conventions prior to the special elections, with the special elections to fill the remainder of the term.
15th District Assembly
Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds –Jackson (D) will be seeking to continue in the Assembly seat she was named to by Mercer and Hunterdon County Democrats earlier this year following the resignation of state Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio. Reynolds-Jackson, a former Trenton councilwoman, is considered the favorite in this Democratic leaning district against Republican Tracy Sinatra.
Reynolds-Jackson has been appointed to the Consumer Affairs and State and Local Government Committees.
22nd District Assembly
Wednesday’s death of Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Plainfield) will necessitate a special election in this district, which spans parts of Union, Somerset and Middlesex Counties. District Democrats will tap a new Assembly member in this Democratic district, with the new legislator likely coming from Plainfield. Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp and Union County Freeholder Linda Carter are the two most likely picks for the seat.
32nd District Assembly
Assemblyman Pedro Mejia (D-Secaucus) is unopposed in his bid to continue to represent the Hudson County and Bergen County district he was appointed to earlier this year. Mejia, the state’s first Dominican American legislator, was appointed to the seat held by former Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) who stepped down after being named as the president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
Mejia has been appointed to the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee.
34th District Assembly
Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange) is unopposed in her bid to continue representing this district spanning parts of Essex and Passaic Counties. Timberlake, a former Essex County Freeholder Board president, was appointed earlier this year to succeed Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D). Oliver sought both the lieutenant governorship and the Assembly seat last year, stepping down from the Legislature prior to taking the oath of office as the state’s second lieutenant governor.
Timberlake has been appointed to the Assembly Education and Science, Innovation and Technology Committees and the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity.
36th District Assembly
New Jersey’s youngest state legislator will continue in office. Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese (D-Cliffside Park), 31, is unopposed in his bid to continuing representing this district, which spans parts of Bergen and Passaic Counties. Calabrese, the scion of a Cliffside Park Democratic dynasty, was appointed to the Assembly earlier this year to succeed state Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. Calabrese is a former member of the Cliffside Park Board of Education.
Calabrese has been appointed to the Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Economic Development and Higher Education Committees in the Assembly.
38th District – Senate and Two Assembly Seats
Voters in this district that spans parts of Bergen and Passaic Counties are seeing a wholesale turnover of their legislative delegation, months after the three incumbent Democrats were reelected for new terms. State Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Fair Lawn) resigned this month after Murphy appointed him to the state Board of Public Utilities. Gordon was succeeded by Democrat Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus), who vacated his Assembly seat to join the Senate.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Maywood), who lost out on the Senate seat to Lagana, then announced his resignation in order to take a newly created post as deputy executive director of the North Jersey Water Supply District Commission. Eustace is a former Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee chairman.
Published reports indicate that Bergenfield Council President Arvin Amatorio and Fair Lawn Mayor Lisa Swain will be tapped by Democrats to fill the Assembly seats vacated by Lagana and Eustace.
Since the state’s filing deadline has passed, Republicans will have until September to tap candidates to challenge Lagana and the new Assembly members in November in what is considered one of the most competitive districts in the state.
Lagana has been appointed as the vice chairman of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and to the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.