Home>Governor>Murphy refuses to publicly affirm redistricting commission deal

Gov. Phil Murphy, left, with Senate President Steve Sweeney before the governor delivers his annual budget address to a joint session of the New Jersey Legislature on February 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor.)

Murphy refuses to publicly affirm redistricting commission deal

Governor says he has no insight into agreement that would give Sweeney, Coughlin appointment on map-drawing commission

By Nikita Biryukov, April 16 2020 3:30 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy declined to publicly state the terms of a deal over seats on the Legislative Reapportionment Commission that was negotiated by his top aide and ended a feud between Democratic factions warring over control of the state party chairmanship, signaling that the core of last year’s armistice might be up for reconsideration.

“I don’t have any insight into this so-called deal,” Murphy said.

In December, the New Jersey Globe reported Democratic State Chairman John Currie and Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones made an agreement that would keep the incumbent state chairman in his post until June 2021, when Jones would take control of the Democratic State Committee.

The covenant, which was negotiated in part by chief of staff George Helmy, also divvied up Democrats’ five seats on the Legislative Redistricting Commission.

The factions agreed Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin would each appoint one member of the commission, as would Jones and Democratic county chairs in Hudson and Bergen Counties.

The intra-party feud had largely abated since December, but it returned last week after Sweeney claimed South Jersey’s seat on the commission in a letter to Currie.

More cracks appeared on Wednesday, when Currie declined to even discuss Sweeney’s letter and DSC Executive Director Saily Avelenda declined to say whether the agreement reached by Democrats was still in effect, adding that the state party would not appoint its commission cohort until the end of the year.

Murphy refused to publicly affirm the agreement on Thursday, saying that his understanding of the timing of redistricting appointments lined up with the state committee’s.

“In terms of when we need to appoint folks to a redistricting commission, I believe it’s by Nov. 15, and we will abide by that,” he said. “I’ve got no more color on that other than that’s the time frame, and that’s always been the time frame.”

While the Currie-Jones feud was at its peak last fall, the incumbent state leader declined to rule out appointing the commission’s members before this year’s Democratic state chairman election, which Currie won unopposed after the two factions made their covenant.

Murphy, a close Currie ally, was heavily involved in the state chair contest.

He whipped votes for the incumbent while on vacation in Italy, and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano was promised an appointment to the redistricting commission before he backed Currie for another term in November 2019.

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