The commission re-drawing New Jersey's state legislative districts issued its final map Sunday, leaving incumbents and potential challengers scratching their heads to determine whether it helps or hurts their election chances.
Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census provides new population data, the state must re-draw the boundaries of the districts to keep the population approximately equal. In New Jersey, that is done by a commission of five Democrats and five Republicans. After they proved unable to agree on a map, a judge ordered the addition of an 11th, non-partisan, member, Rutgers public policy Prof. Alan Rosenthal.
After weeks of hearings, debate and discussion, he decided on Saturday to vote in favor of the map proposed by Democrats.
The boundaries of almost every district were changed, generally by adding or subtracting a nearby town. The 25th District, which includes Morristown, lost Jefferson and Rockaway Township to the 26th District, and picked up several communities—Bernardsville, the Chesters, Mendham Borough, Netcong and Washington Township. The district is currently served by Senator Anthony R. Bucco, Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (the senator's son), and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, all Republicans.
A spreadsheet showing what towns are included in each of the new districts is attached to this article, as a PDF file. Scroll down to the bottom of this article to see a breakdown of the new 25th District.
The biggest change in the map include the merging of two senators of each party in the same district. Democratic Sens. John Girgenti of Hawthorne and Robert Gordon of Fair Lawn are in the same Bergen County based district and Republican Sens. Robert Singer of Lakewood and Sean Kean of Wall Township are in the same Ocean and Monmouth based district. Girgenti has indicated to PolitickerNJ that he plans to move to Paterson to seek reelection in a Passaic County based district. Singer and Kean have not indicated their plans.
PolitickerNJ has also reported that Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) will be seeking the Senate seat in the Passaic County district Girgenti plans to relocate to.
Princeton Borough and Township has been moved from the Mercer County based and Democratic leaning 15th district to a Republican leaning district straddling Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset and Middlesex Counties. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton) has told PolitickerNJ that he will move into the new 15th, which includes Trenton, to seek reelection.
Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), a former governor, has seen a redrawing of his lines from a safe Democratic seat in Essex County to a competitive district saddling parts of Essex and Morris Counties. Codey’s new district loses parts of Newark and gains Republican Millburn in Essex, along with Harding, Chatham Township, East Hanover, Hanover and Madison in Morris. Codey retains several towns in his existing suburban Essex base including Livingston, West Orange, Maplewood and South Orange.
Millburn had been the only Essex County town for the past 10 years in the Union County dominated 21st district. The old redistricting cost then Assemblyman Joel Weingarten (R-Millburn) his seat and hindered Millburn based Assembly candidates during Republican special election conventions in 2003 and 2009.
Union County Democratic Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo achieved her redistricting goal with the move of her hometown of Hillside from the Newark dominated 29th district to the Union County based 20th. The 29th, which is led by Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), picks up Belleville under the new map, while the 20th loses Kenilworth to the 21st district to accommodate Hillside. Kenilworth Republicans have long wanted their community moved from the Democratic 20th to the Republican 21st.
In Hudson County, Sen. Brian Stack (D-Union City) picks up more of Jersey City and loses Guttenberg and West New York, a result that had been long expected. Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriguez (D-West New York), a Stack ally, announced plans to run for town commissioner in her hometown instead of reelection in a new district straddling Hudson and Bergen Counties.
Legislative leaders have largely retained safe seats for the next decade.
For incumbents, the new map means they will need to introduce themselves to voters in unfamiliar neighborhoods, while potential challengers calculate whether the new boundaries may make incumbents more or less vulnerable.
The Star-Ledger quoted Rosenthal as defending his decision, saying he believed the Democrats' map was "less disruptive."
"It is a map, I believe, that gives the minority party a chance at winning control of the Legislature, even in what is essentially a Democratic state," he said.
Predictably, reaction to the plan was divided along party lines.
Republicans claimed the map puts more people in districts in south Jersey than in the north, an imbalance that may grow if the southern part of the state continues to gain population faster than the northern part.
"People in southern New Jersey will have their votes count less than people in northern New Jersey -- noting also that the population growth, we expect, will continue to happen in South Jersey,'' the GOP redistricting chairman, Assemblyman Jay Webber, told the Asbury Park Press. "And so over time, resident citizens of South Jersey will continue to have their votes undercounted as compared with their neighbors in the north.''
The Democrat's redistricting commissioner, Sen. Paul Sarlo, told the Asbury Park Press Webber's points were "sour grapes.'
Republicans could still decide to challenge the plan in court, but as of Sunday, weren't saying if they planned to do so.New 25th District Municipality Population White Only Black Only Asian Only Hispanic Only Already Part of District? Bernardsville Boro 7707 7043 68 252 903 No Boonton Twn 8347 6578 402 839 920 Yes Boonton Twp 4263 3937 66 170 178 Yes Chester Boro 1649 1497 17 38 222 No Chester Twp 7838 7314 82 274 341 No Denville Twp 16635 14887 236 1084 883 Yes Dover Twn 18157 12083 1108 461 12598 Yes Mendham Boro 4981 4767 51 102 135 No Mendham Twp 5869 5477 76 200 211 Yes Mine Hill Twp 3651 2946 168 181 840 Yes Morris Twp 22306 19022 1261 1141 1683 Yes Morristown Twn 18411 11507 2572 799 6277 Yes Mount Arlington Boro 5050 4567 117 181 415 Yes Mountain Lakes Boro 4160 3726 15 318 106 Yes Netcong Boro 3232 2722 126 90 572 No Randolph Twp 25734 21215 690 2691 2616 Yes Rockaway Boro 6438 5330 207 493 970 Yes Roxbury Twp 23324 20573 546 1346 2083 Yes Victory Gardens Boro 1520 889 247 37 957 Yes Washington Twp 18533 17247 257 612 847 No Wharton Boro 6522 4947 298 370 2630 Yes