Home>Feature>Jaffer will not seek re-election to Assembly in 2023

Assemblywoman Sadaf F. Jaffer at Gov. Phil Murphy's fiscal year 2023 budget address delivered on March 8, 2022. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Jaffer will not seek re-election to Assembly in 2023

Freshman lawmaker will leave legislature after one term

By David Wildstein, January 16 2023 3:47 pm

Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery), a rising star in the New Jersey legislature, will not seek re-election to a second term this year, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.

Jaffer told Democratic party leaders on Monday  that she will not run again, creating an open seat race in a legislative district that was drawn to be competitive under a new map approved during last year’s redistricting.  It’s not clear when she will make a public announcement.

She cited personal reasons for her unexpected departure.   One of the most progressive members of the Assembly, Jaffer will serve the remaining year of her term.

“After careful consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election to the New Jersey General Assembly,” Jaffer said.  “At this time, I would like to focus on my work in higher education and spend more time with my family, especially my young daughter.”

Jaffer said it was “an honor to represent the people of the 16th district and the State of New Jersey.”

“I thank everyone who has supported me on this journey. I have endeavored to bring my perspective as a researcher, parent, and former mayor to the legislation I have sponsored, the votes I have taken, and the budget priorities for which I have advocated,” she said.  “I will continue to support legislation focused on women’s and reproductive healthcare, mental health, diversity, and good governance.”

Democrats in the 16th district, which includes parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties have until the March 27 filing deadline to pick a new candidate.  All four counties have open nominating conventions to award the organization line for a place on the ticket with Zwicker and Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough).

Democrats backed Jaffer for the 16th district Assembly seat vacated in 2021 when Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick ran for the State Senate.   She won the Democratic primary by a 3-1 margin against Faris Zwirahn.

In the days following the general election, Jaffer led Republican Vinny Panico by less than 300 votes, but the final count gave her a 2,588-vote plurality.

The 39-year-old Jaffer became the first Muslim woman to serve a mayor in the United States when she took the helm of Montgomery Township in 2019.   She is one of two Muslim women and three Asian American woman currently serving in the New Jersey Legislature.

“I am proud to have been among a cohort to shatter glass ceilings as one of the first three Asian American women and first two Muslim Americans to serve in the New Jersey Legislature,” said Jaffer.  “I look forward to continued progress in the representation of women and minorities at all levels of government in the years to come.”

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin praised Jaffer as “a trailblazer, a teammate, and most importantly, a friend.”

“She has served as inspiration to countless South Asian and Muslim New Jerseyans looking to enter into public service. Her work on issues related to mental health and women’s health have improved the lives of countless New Jerseyans, and I know that she’ll continue to advocate far beyond her time in the Assembly comes to a close.
stated Coughlin.  “I wish her and her family the best as they move into the next chapter of their lives, and look forward to a continued friendship.”

Jaffer began her political career as a write-in candidate for the Montgomery Township Council in 2016.  She was elected to the council in 2017 as a Democrat and did not seek re-election in 2020.

A postdoctoral research assistant in South Asian Studies at Princeton University, Jaffer received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown and a PhD from Harvard.

In a statement, Jaffer express appreciation to “Speaker Coughlin for his leadership of the Assembly, and Senator Zwicker and Assemblyman Freiman for their partnership in serving the 16th district. ”

“I know they will continue on to do incredible things for New Jersey,” she said.

Zwicker called it an honor to serve with Jaffer.

“She broke barriers and made history in 2021 – as the first South Asian and Muslim woman to be elected to the Assembly and in 2019 – as the first Muslim woman to be elected Mayor in the United States. Her work on women’s and reproductive healthcare, mental health, diversity, and good governance will benefit our state for generations to come,” Zwicker said.  “I am proud to continue to serve the 16th District alongside Assemblywoman Jaffer this year, and wish her and her family all the best moving forward.”

Freiman said that the 16th district “has been lucky to have a strong advocate in Trenton like Assemblywoman Jaffer.”

“Her drive to break barriers led her to becoming the first South Asian and Muslim woman elected to the Assembly in 2021, and led her to being the first Muslim woman elected to be Mayor in the United States in 2019, both achievements that broke down doors for so many,” Freiman said.  “It has been my pleasure to serve alongside her in the State Assembly and I wish her all the best as she moves ahead.”

Gov. Phil Murphy saluted Jaffer “as the first Muslim woman to serve as mayor in U.S. history and one of the first Asian American and Muslim American women elected to the New Jersey Legislature.”

“Assemblywoman Jaffer has been a trailblazing leader and public servant. From expanding mental health and suicide prevention services through the College Mental Health Services Act to putting more money into the pockets of working families through an expanded state child tax credit, Assemblywoman Jaffer has made a meaningful difference for her constituents during her time in office,” Murphy said.  “Although we will miss her presence in Trenton, I wish her and her family all the best in her next chapter of public service

This story was updated at 4:46 PM with comment from Jaffer and Coughlin, at 5:10 with comment from Zwicker and Freiman, and at 8:55 AM on January 17 with comment from Murphy. 

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