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Democratic State Chairman John Currie hasn’t ruled out appointing his half of the redistricting commission before a race for the Democratic state chairmanship that’s expected to take place in December.
“I haven’t made any decision on that,” Currie said. “I haven’t ruled it out because I want to make sure the process is fair and we’re constructive in the way we do it, you know? And I’ll probably follow the lead of whatever the Republicans do.”
Under the current system, New Jersey’s Democratic and Republican state chairs each appoint five members to the Legislative Apportionment Commission.
In the case of a deadlock — a deadlock is expected to the point of certainty — the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court appoints a tiebreaker.
Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones has been mulling a challenge to Currie since last December.
Most of the state’s Democratic county chairs quickly picked sides after Jones announced his interest in the position, though the contest has taken something of a breather as the year’s Assembly campaigns enter their closing weeks.
That ceasefire is expected to end after polls close on November 5, and appointing his members of the commission before the December race would allow Currie to hedge in case of a defeat.
While such a move would likely face opposition from Gov. Phil Murphy’s Democratic opponents, it’s not unprecedented.
In 2010, State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union), then an assemblyman and the outgoing Democratic state chair, appointed three members of the commission before ceding control of the state party to now-former Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville).
Murphy and Currie are closely allied, and control over the redistricting commission would provide the governor with leverage against Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, either by threatening the composition of their districts — something that is nearly impossible to achieve — or by reeking havoc on districts held by their allies.
In any case, Currie hasn’t made any decisions yet, but he’ll be examining his options in the coming days.
“Well, listen, I’m going to be meeting with my crew and taking a look at it,” Currie said. “When you have an election coming up — I think we could end up being behind if we don’t get started soon, so I think it’s important that we at least start to lay some groundwork in case we go forward.”