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New Jersey Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Republicans name their six Congressional Redistricting Commission members

Steinhardt will draw new House districts; Neely — top advisor to Kean — will serve as executive director

By David Wildstein, May 28 2021 4:12 pm

Former GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt has been named to the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission, one of six Republican who will help draw twelve House districts for the 2022 mid-term elections.

The picks appear to boost the clout of Thomas Kean, Jr. as he mulls a rematch against Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) next year.  Four of the six GOP members of the panel live in New Jersey’s 7th district.

As Senate Minority Leader, Kean has two direct appointments to the commission.  He has named Mark LoGrippo, a councilman from his hometown of Westfield, and Jeanne Dovgala Ashmore, a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie and district director to Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township).

The statutory deadline for the congressional mapmaking panel is June 15.  That gives two picks to the current Republican State Chairman, Michael Lavery.

Lavery is expected to leave office at the end of next month when the winner of the Republican nomination for governor traditionally gets to make their own choice state party chair.  Since the nominee will not be certified by June 15, there will be no new state chair in place to make the picks.

Steinhardt one of two picks made by Michael Lavery, the current Republican State Chairman.  Lavery’s other choice is longtime state party vice chair Lynda Pagliughi, a longtime GOP stalwart from Cape May County and an ally of Steinhardt.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick has appointed his top aide, Mark Duffy, the executive director of the Assembly Republican Office and the Pennington GOP Municipal Chairman.  He’s also named and Michele Albano, Bramnick’s finance chair.   Albano is a Westfield resident and Duffy is a former Pennington Republican Municipal Chairman.

Harrison Neely, a Republican political consultant and Kean’s top political advisor, will serve as executive director of the GOP side of the Congressional Redistricting Commission.

Democrats have not yet completed their process for determining their six Redistricting Commission members.  A tie-breaker would be appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The drawing of New Jersey’s House districts will begin in earnest in late summer, after the U.S. Census Bureau transmits exact population numbers of the state’s municipalities.  Final census tract numbers might not come until September.

The final map is due by January 18 of next year.

Republicans are expected to make Malinowski their top target and the heavy presence of Kean allies makes that more likely.  That could be to the benefit of two other Democratic House Members, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), despite public protestations by some Democratic county chairs that they won’t let it happen.

Kean has not yet announced his plans for another congressional run.

Rik Mehta, the GOP U.S. Senate candidate against Cory Booker in 2020, is already in the race to take on Malinowski.  It’s also not clear if Mehta will still live in the 7th under the new map.

A separate battlefield is the 3rd district, where Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) is expected to seek re-election to a third term in a district that Joe Biden carried by less than one percentage point last year.

Pagliughi gives Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) representation at the table as Republicans outline their redistricting priorities.  Steinhardt is also a Van Drew ally.

On a parallel tract will be the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which will redraw the state’s 40 legislative districts for the 2023 election.

Steinhardt had named the five Republican members in fourteen months ago when he was state chairman, in the event that the 2020 Census was completed in time for the 2021 election.

Essex County GOP Chairman Al Barlas was named Republican chairman of legislative redistricting, along with Lavery, Kean, Bramnick and Salem County Republican Chair Linda DuBois.

Since then, Kean has announced that he would not run for re-election for Senate and Bramnick is giving up his Assembly seat in a bid to succeed Kean in the Senate.   It’s assumed – but not clear – that Kean and Bramnick will retain their seats.

While legislative redistricting commission members – five from each party – are named entirely by the state party chairs.  The two state party chairs, the Senate President, Assembly Speaker and the Senate and Assembly minority leaders each get two direct appointments.

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