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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy sidesteps on redistricting commission’s lack of Latina members

Governor points to Avelenda’s appointment as commission’s executive director

By Nikita Biryukov, November 20 2020 2:45 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy sidestepped activists’ calls for a Latina to be appointed to the Democratic half of the legislative redistricting commission Friday.

“I’m a big believer in diversity,” Murphy said. “I acknowledge and take the question and the point. I will say this, that I was gratified to see Saily Avelenda appointed as the executive director for the commission, and that represents a significant step in the right direction as it relates to diversity and we continue to be pounding away.”

The New Jersey Globe last week first reported Democratic State Chairman John Currie would appoint Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Middlesex County Democratic insider Gary Taffet, West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo, and Fairview Borough Administrator Diane Testa as the commission’s five voting Democratic members.

Avelenda, who is the Democratic State Committee’s executive director, is a Latina grassroots progressive leader whose work with NJ 11th For Change helped Democrats win the 11th congressional district in 2018.

The move has done little to assuage activists who for months have called on Democratic leaders to ensure the commission has diverse membership.

On Thursday Patricia Campos Medina, president of Latinas United for Political Empowerment Inc., and Laura Matos, who heads the group’s PAC, penned an op-ed slamming the Democratic State Committee, claiming it reneged on its promises of diversity and progressive values by leaving the commission without a Hispanic member.

The Republican half of the commission didn’t catch any flak from them over the issue. Campos Medina and Matos said the absence of Hispanic members in Republicans’ five appointments was unsurprising given the party’s embrace of outgoing President Donald Trump.

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