As Raj Mukherjee seeks a seat in the state Senate in the newly created 32nd Hudson County, the process of filling his vacancy in the State Assembly – and perhaps another – has already begun. Jersey City will get a seat in the Senate and one seat in the Assembly, and the second seat in the Assembly will get Hoboken.

While the change of district has put Mukherjee a clear path to the Senate, his partner, Assembly member Annette Chaparo (D-Habokken), may be left without a seat.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhala, who both approved Mukherjee about two hours after the new legislative card was approved last Friday, will have to coordinate Assembly elections if they want the ticket to look diverse.

Democrats expect that there will be a candidate for the Latin American Assembly – it is unclear whether this candidate will be from Jersey City or Hoboken.

Chaparo, who served four terms, came to the Assembly in 2015 under an agreement between Hoboken Mayor Don Zimmer and Sen. Stack, remembering the need to represent Latinos in his constituency and advocating a ticket waiver exclusively for men, Zimmer said she could choose any Latin American she wanted.

After Ravi Bhala became mayor of Hoboken in 2017, there have been some discussions that he will refer to the unwritten rule that mayors of Hudson can choose their candidate for the Assembly. Rachel Hodes, chairman of the Municipal Party from the Democratic Party and the wife of Bhala City Administrator Jason Freeman, was mentioned as a potential candidate, but the lack of a Latin American candidate from Stack and Mukherjee eventually saved Chaparo.

Bhala was seen as a potential candidate for the Assembly, although this would require him to step down as mayor and call a snap election in 2024. Bhala had just started his second term last month, and it is unclear whether he will be ready to retire one and a half through his second term. If he fails to do so, the opportunity to work in the legislature may bypass him.

But if Bhala runs for the Assembly, it could mean handing over the keys to the city to a rival faction – and start a battle for council president in a heavily divided city council, because that’s who’s next in line of succession in the event of a vacancy. Right now, this position is held by Michael Rousseau, a candidate for mayor and the son of former mayor Anthony Rousseau.

There is no certainty that Bhala will support Chaparo for another term. Possible candidates from Hoboken include Bhala’s chief aide John Allen and Almond Pegan-Milan, a municipal official who challenged Bhala’s opponent Michael DeFusco to a seat on the 1st House council in 2019. Pagan-Milan will be the first openly gay lawmaker from Hudson County.

So far, there is more competition for a seat in Jersey City, where Fulop is likely to choose the person who gets a seat in the Assembly.

One possible candidate is Hudson County Democratic Party Chairman Amy DeGees, who won a seat on the city council last year. Her transition to the State Assembly could pave the way for someone else to become county chairman. Jersey City Councilman Daniel Rivera, a strong ally of Fulop, is also a possible candidate.

Moving DeGiza or Rivera to the legislature poses a potential challenge for Fulop: the full city council will appoint someone to take place before the November 2024 snap election to fill the unfinished term. Fulop may want to avoid the uncertainty of a special city election with turnout in the presidential year, especially if this is seen as an indicator of his local political strength when he seeks a nomination from the Democratic Party in 2025 for governor.

Other possible candidates for the Jersey City Assembly are: school board members Noemi Velázquez and Gina Verdibella; Municipal Court Judge Karen DeSoto; Attorney General Jake Hadnat, who lost two races to City Council; and Irene Borngreber, CEO of Humane Society Liberty.

If she is not a candidate for Hoboken, Chaparo will also be able to move to Jersey City if Democrats are willing to give her a seat.

Hoboken makes up about 25% of the new legislature.

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