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Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Sherrill doesn’t touch question on abolishing lines

Democratic congresswoman is potential ’25 gubernatorial candidate

By Ricky Suta, September 18 2023 3:48 pm

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) today declined to say if she supports or opposes organization lines in primary elections.

The New Jersey Globe asked Sherrill, a potential candidate for the 2025 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, about her position on legislation sponsored by State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) abolishing county lines during her visit to Turner’s district on Monday.

“I haven’t seen that legislation, but what we’ve been working on at the federal level is increasing voter access,” the three-term lawmaker said.  “I know our lieutenant governor, for example, has been critical in expanding access – I think we’re about to start opening up mail-in ballots, in about a week here.  Each year seems to create greater voter access whether it’s opening polls and polling places early or expanding the vote by mail access, so I’ve been very much in favor of expanding access.”

The line has become somewhat politically tricky for legislators, many of whom benefit from it.

Gov. Phil Murphy has deftly sidestepped taking a position on lines, even though he ran as the line candidate in two successive Democratic primaries.  Sherrill captured all four lines in the 11th district when she first ran for Congress in 2018.  Reform-minded Democrats, like State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Hamilton), who represent parts of Mercer County, have also declined to offer a clear stance on the issue.

In nearly every New Jersey County, party chairs gather before a primary and choose their favored candidate – that candidate, then, gets favorably placed on the ballot and, usually, wins.

This means that primaries are frequently non-competitive, with party insiders making critical decisions.

Earlier this year, these lines came under renewed suspicion and calls for them to be abolished.

Turner, one of the state’s longest-serving legislators, announced that she supported abolishing the line and subsequently introduced a bill that would have done just that.

“People now are more open to competitiveness in politics, and not just having a party decide who the candidate’s going to be,” Turner said at the time. “Let the people decide.”

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