By Mark Koosau and Daniel Israel
As redistricting continues following the 2020 U.S. Census, map making for New Jersey’s State Legislature has now been completed, and the new map will make drastic changes in Hudson County.
The county, which is currently spread out between the 31st, 32nd and 33rd districts, will see new configurations of the districts along with a number of municipalities changing places. Most notably, it puts two of the most powerful politicians in the county into the same legislative district, setting them up for a potential primary battle in 2023.
Breakdown of the map
The state legislative redistricting is done by the Legislative Appropriation Commission, which consists of five Democratic and Republican political appointees and a tiebreaker chosen by the state Supreme Court Chief Justice.
The new map was created and adopted amongst the two parties after initially proposing separate maps of their own last week and hearing a number of public comments.
“We have, as we all know, the first consensus bipartisan map in apportionment history in the state of New Jersey,” said former Judge Philip Carchman, the tiebreaker of the commission. “A bipartisan map. Think about that in this day and age of politics, what it takes to achieve a bipartisan map, and that belongs to all of the commissioners and to the leadership as well.”
The 31st district keeps Bayonne and the southern half of Jersey City, but now includes Kearny, which was formerly in the old 32nd district. The new 32nd district is based on the old 33rd district, which now includes Hoboken and the northern half of Jersey City.
The most major change in the map is the new 33rd district, which is a reconfiguration of the old 32nd district. The new district includes Secaucus, North Bergen, Union City, West New York, Guttenberg and Weehawken.
Lastly, Harrison and East Newark will no longer be part of any Hudson County-based districts as they get moved over to the Newark-based 29th district.
North Bergen and Union City being put into the same district means that state Senators Nicholas Sacco and Brian Stack, who are both Democrats from the 32nd and 33rd districts respectively, will have to run in a primary battle in the newly created 33rd district in 2023. Because of that, it would also leave an open state Senate seat in the 32nd district.
The new map also means that four Assemblymembers would have to swap districts, but will technically remain in their old boundaries.
Assemblymembers Pedro Mejia and Angelica Jimenez, Democrats from Secaucus and West New York respectively, would have to move from the 32nd to the 33rd district. On the flipside, Assemblymembers Annette Chaparro and Raj Muhkerji, Democrats from Hoboken and Jersey City respectively, would have to move from the 33rd to the 32nd district.
A more in-depth look at the map can be found at davesredistricting.org/maps#viewmap::1f81ff23-a5bc-4c3e-ace1-cf32e8567a05.
Reactions to the new map
In an interview with the Hudson Reporter, Stack said this was a result from efforts within Hudson to keep Jersey City in one district.
“It’s unfortunate that two incumbent state senators are in the same district,” Stack said. “I just think this was a result of a concerted effort by some in Hudson County not to split Jersey City into three districts. I hear all this stuff about the Constitution. I don’t see anything in the Constitution that would stop Jersey City from being split into three districts, especially if we can create a minority district and other minority districts in Hudson County.”
Stack said the plan backfired and part of the repercussion is that he will face off in a primary battle with Sacco.
“I think it was a mistake for anyone here in the process to not allow Jersey City to be split,” he said. “Look I think whether Jersey City has one state senator, three state senators, four state senators, I think the bottom line is, representing the people. It’s not the number of senators, but who serves and how well they served a constituency.”
Sacco spokesperson Phil Swibinski said he had no comment at this time.
Jersey City had been considered under one proposed map to be split between three legislative districts, something that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop opposed.
“It’s really unfortunate and disappointing that the committee then took the opportunity to put two of New Jersey’s best state senators in the same district as there were many other options that would not have created a potential primary,” said Fulop in a statement after the new map was adopted.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Jersey City Councilwoman Amy DeGise (who is also the chairwoman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization) had also sought to have the commission hold off on the vote, which went forward despite their calls.
“We understand that population growth makes some degree of change inevitable, but there is no reasonable justification for throwing two incumbent Democratic Senators who both have tremendous records of representing their constituents in the same district,” said Amy DeGise in a statement before the vote.
Because of redistricting, all 120 seats in the state Assembly and Senate will be up for election in 2023. Only hours after the new map was adopted, Assemblyman Mukherji also announced that he would be running for the open state Senate seat in the 32nd district, and has already received endorsements from Stack, Fulop and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com. Mark Koosau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.