A special election convention to pick a replacement for former State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) has been set for Friday, September 9.
Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr. set the election on Wednesday after Rice formally relinquished the Senate seat he’s held since 1986. Rice retired for health reasons that made it difficult for him to complete his term.
There are still no announced candidates for the 28th district Senate seat.
Possible candidates include Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Newark), Newark South Ward Councilman and South Ward Democratic Chairman Pat Council, Essex County Commissioner Wayne Richardson, and four Irvington councilwomen: Renee Burgess, Jamillah Beasley, Charnette Frederic, and Dr. October Hudley.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley) has said he will not be a candidate.
Two votes are expected: one to fill Rice’s seat on an interim basis, and the other to nominate a candidate to run in the November 8 special election to fill the remainder of the term.
Essex Democrats have no filing deadline, allowing for nominations to come from the floor.
The convention will be held at Bloomfield College, a venue that is viewed as neutral ground – and a signal that Democrats won’t pick a caretaker from Bloomfield, which will shift to the newly drawn 34th district for net year’ selection.
Newark makes up 40% of the Democratic county committee seats in the 28th legislatve district.
Newark has 111 filled county committee seats — 56 in the West Ward, 43 in the South Ward, and six each in the North and Central Wards – which represents the largest block in the district.
Bloomfield has 67 filled seats and Irvington has 60. Both towns are closely allied with Jones and the combined 127 votes outnumber Newark. Glen Ridge (14 seats) and Nutley (27 seats) are more likely to be part of the Bloomfield/Irvington coalition, bringing that number to 168 – 60%.
Of the 314 county committee seats in the 28th, 279 (89%) are currently filled. That gives some municipal chairs a couple of weeks to recruit and appoint up to 35 new members if they want to expand their own influence in the first open Senate seat in the district in 36 years.
Nutley, where Commissioner Thomas Evans is municipal chairman, has the most vacancies: thirteen (32.5%). Just three of the 70 seats in Bloomfield are vacant – Venezia is the municipal chair – and eight out of 68 in Irvington, where the municipal chair is Vauss ally Baseemah Beasley.
Beasley’s late husband, Bilal, served as an Essex County Freeholder and Irvington Council President – he came within 475 votes of ousting Rice in the 2007 Democratic State Senate primary (52%-48%) – and her daughter, Jamillah, is one of the potential Senate candidates.
Rice is the West Ward Democratic co-chairman (along with Jeanette Seabrooks) and has not said if he plans to remain in that post after leaving the Senate. All 56 of his county committee seats are filled and it’s not immediately clear how many votes are influenced by Rice and how many by Seabrooks, a Jones ally.
Council has eleven vacancies out 54 seats, with all seats in the Central and North Wards full.