For the most part, Art deal legislative card which will almost certainly be approved later today is a map that preserves the status quo. Republicans are getting some favorable changes in South Jersey, and Democrats are keeping Central Jersey involved in a way that largely benefits their party, but the number of undermined counties and incumbents with double lodges is minimal.
At least everywhere, that is, except Essex County. After both of the original draft maps changed the shape of the 27th county but left the rest of the county largely the same, the compromise map moves to existing lines, including state senator New Gill (D-Mantler) and former governor Richard Cody. Roland) to the same district, clearing the way for the Senate, led by MP Britney Timberlake (D-East Orange), and moving several members of the Assembly.
The biggest changes are in the 27th arrondissement, which loses its parts of Maurice County and instead moves north, merging Livingston, Milburn, Rosland and West Orange with Moncler and Clifton from the 34th arrondissement.
That means a potential showdown between Cody, who served in the legislature for a whopping 48 years, and comparative newcomer Gil, who “only” travels to Trenton for 28 years.
If both Cody and Gill actually decide to participate in the new 27th, Cody is likely to get the Essex County line, which will put him at a clear advantage. His ticket is likely to include MP John McKeon (D-West Orange), his partner for the past 20 years, and 34th district member Thomas Giblin (D-Montclair).
But in an area made up of diversified and increasingly progressive suburbs, a ticket exclusively for white men, whose youngest member is 63, may seem strange. This leaves a potential revelation for Gil, whose quixotic offer for the Senate presidency last month she shows she is no stranger to difficult campaigns.
When Giblin and Gill both moved to the 27th arrondissement, the new 34th arrondissement, which includes East Orange, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Orange and Nutley, has a seat in the Senate. Timberlake would become a direct favorite, leaving a seat in the Assembly that could go to the Bloomfield candidate; 28th District MP Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley) should be penalized for third place in the constituency.
Gil could also theoretically move to the new 34th arrondissement and try his chances there, but Timberlake would have been a favorite on the county line anyway, and without Moncler in Gil’s corner the campaign against Timberlake could be even more hopeless than against Cody.
Finally, the 28th District is experiencing the least drastic change, but Caputo is being replaced by collector member Milo Jesse (D-South Orange), who currently serves alongside Cody and McKeon in the 27th District.
This is a huge shift for Jesse, who is black but has long represented more affluent and white suburbs such as Livingston and Harding – a stark contrast to the new 28th District, which includes Black Irvington, Hillside and parts of Newark along with Maplewood and South Orange. In redrawing the county of Essex the commission seemed to take into account the race of Jesse much more than its actual history as a politician.
In addition to a major reshuffle in the legislature, the new card also looks like a setback for supporters who hope increase the number of constituencies of majority minorities in the state. Initial proposals made many districts 27th and 34th black, but by merging the whitest parts of each into a new 27th district, this progress looks as if it has been canceled on the deal map.
The map looks like a done deal, and dozens of current executives around the state you can sigh with relief. But in Essex the drama is just beginning.