New Jersey set a record for the most number of women mayors and freeholders in 2020, but an annual report card from the Center for American Women and Politics, but progress of electing more women at the local level has been incremental at best.
New Jersey had 94 women mayors this year – up from 86 in 2019 – but that’s just 17% of the state’s 565 mayors.
The previous record of 90 was set in 2011, according to CAWP.
Women held 905 of the state’s 3,103 council, township committee and village trustee seats in 2020, just 29% of the total seats statewide. That number came after women candidates gained 68 new seats last year.
At the county level, where freeholders will become county commissioners on January 1, women make up one-third of the total statewide seats, 45 of 135. Those are also record highs, albeit by small margins.
“It’s an exciting year for women and politics, with the election of the first woman vice president, and women once again setting new records as candidates and officeholders,” said CAWP associate director Jean Sinzdak, “but the progress here in New Jersey has been glacially slow. Counties where party leaders make women’s representation an imperative, like Mercer and Union, have been making strides. It needs to be an imperative in every county in the state.”
New Jersey also added one new woman to the state legislature: Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Mendham) won the seat vacated by Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) moved up to the State Senate.
According to CAWP, Mercer and Union counties lead the state in political representation by women at the local level. Somerset, where Peg Schaffer is the Democratic county chair, also has a majority on women on the freeholder board.
In Union County, 48% of mayors are women, followed by 25% in Mercer. Men hold more than 80% of local mayoral posts in 15 counties, and Cumberland have no women mayors.
Women have a majority of seats on freeholder boards in Bergen and Union counties.
At least 40% of freeholder board seats are held by women in seven New Jersey counties: Atlantic (44%), Camden (43%), Mercer (43%), Middlesex (43%), Burlington (40%), Monmouth (40%), and Sussex (40%).
Warren and Salem counties had no women freeholders in 2020, although that will change in Warren next month when County Commissioner-elect Lori Ciesla takes office.
Mercer is the only New Jersey county where more than 40% of local council seats are held by women – 43% of the 67 total seats. Women hold less than 20% of local council seats in Salem (19%), Atlantic (18%) and Cumberland (15%).