Home>Campaigns>With new census count, 17 districts have non-white majorities — and most are represented by white senators
State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City). Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.
State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City). Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.

With new census count, 17 districts have non-white majorities — and most are represented by white senators

Three white-majority districts elect senators of color

By David Wildstein, August 13 2021 1:56 pm

Seventeen legislative districts that have non-white majorities are currently represented by nine white Democrats in the New Jersey State Senate, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released on Thursday.

These new numbers are expected to be part of the redistricting process as the state redraws the legislative map for the 2023 election.

Just three districts where a majority of voters are white elect a non-white senator: the Camden County-based 5th, where Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington), a Latina, represents a district that is now 50.9% following the 2020 census; and the Burlington-based 7th, which is 57% white and elects a Black senator, Troy Singleton (D-Delran); and the 11th in Monmouth, where Vin Gopal D-Long Branch), who is a South Asian American, holds a seat in a district that is 59% White, 19% Hispanic, 12% Black and 4% Asian.

New Jersey has just one Black-majority district, the Essex-based 28th, where a Black Democrat, Ronald Rice (D-Newark) has been senator since 1986.  The 28th is 52% Black, 20% Hispanic, 19% White and 4% Asian.  Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Newark) is Black, and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley) is white.

The 29th district is 45% Hispanic, 31% Black, 19% White and 4% Asian.  State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) became the state’s first Latina senator in 2007.  She runs on a slate with Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Eliana Pintor-Marin (D-Newark), who is Portuguese American, and Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Newark), who is Black.

One of the two Hispanic-majority districts is represented by a Latina: State Sen. Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) in the Passaic-based 35th.  A white senator, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, represents the Hudson-based 32nd.

The 32nd is 57.2% Hispanic, 24% White, 18% Asian and 4% Black.  Sacco’s Assembly running mates, Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York) and Pedro Mejia (D-Secaucus) are Hispanic.

Pou’s district is 53% Hispanic, 21% White, and 17% Black.   The two Assembly members from the 35th, Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson) and Benji Wimberly (D-Paterson), are Black.

The highly-competitive Atlantic-based 2nd district is now 51% white, down from 55% a decade ago.  All three incumbents and all six candidates running in 2021 are white.

The Mercer-based 15th district is 36% White, 25% Black and 24% Hispanic.  Two-thirds of the legislative delegation are Black – State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton) – while Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli (D-Hopewell) Is white.

All three senators from Middlesex County are white, but each of their districts are currently minority-majority.

In the 17th, State Sen. Robert Smith (D-Piscataway) represents a district that is 27% white, 27% Hispanic, 24% Asian and 18% Black.  Both of the assemblymen in that district – Joseph Egan (D-New Brunswick) and Joseph Danielson (D-Franklin) – are white.

The 18th is 41% white, 36% Asian, 12% Hispanic and 7% Black.  Two of the legislators are white — State Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield) and Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak (D-Edison) – while Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick) is a South Asian American.

The third Middlesex district, the 19th, is 37% Hispanic, 33% White, 18% Asian and 10% Black.  The district elects two of the most influential Democrats in Trenton: Senate Health Committee Chairman Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge).  Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy) is Latina.

Two of the Union County legislative districts have non-white majorities but elect white senators: Joseph Cryan (D-Union) in the 20th and Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) in the 22nd.

The 20th is 48% Hispanic, 26% Black, 17% White and 4% Asian.  Still, Cryan won a landslide victory in the Democratic primary against a Black Democrat, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle).  Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) is Latina and Holley’s replacement, Rev. Reginald Atkins, a former mayor of Roselle, is Black.

Scutari’s 22nd district is 36% White, 34% Hispanic and 21% Black.  Assemblyman James Kennedy (D-Rahway) is white, and Assemblywoman Linda Carter (D-Plainfield) is Black.

Hudson County’s 31st Jersey City/Bayonne district elects a Black senator, Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City).  The district is 28% White, 25% Hispanic, 21% Black and 21% Asian.  Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), who is Black, is seeking re-election.  A white lawmaker, Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) is not running again; his expected replacement, longshoreman William Sampson IV, is Black.

The other Hudson district, the 33rd, is 40% Hispanic, 34% White, 18% Asian and 4% Black.  The district has a white senator, Union City Mayor Brian Stack, and two minority assembly members, Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City), who is of South Asian descent, and Annette Chaparro (D-Hoboken), a Latina.

The 34th district, which includes Montclair and East Orange in Essex and Clifton in Union, is 38% Black, 27% White and 25% Hispanic.  It elects two Black lawmakers – State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange).  Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Montclair) is white.

Two Bergen County legislative districts have non-white majorities but are represented by a white senator.

In the 36th district, which also includes the City of Passaic, all three legislators – State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) and Assemblymen Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) and Clinton Calabrese (D-Cliffside Park), are white.  The district is 42% Hispanic – up from 37% — 40% White – down from 48% — 10% Asian and 4% Black.
Next door in the 37th district, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) represents a district that is 35% White, 35% Asian, 25% Hispanic, and 12% Black.  The two Assembly members are Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood), who is Black, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), who is white.

That number will change in January, following Weinberg’s retirement.  She is likely to be succeeded by Johnson, who defeated Vainieri Huttle in the June Senate primary and will become the first Black senator from Bergen County.

The open Assembly seats are expected to be filled by two Asian American Democrats: former Tenafly Councilwoman Shaina Haider and former Englewood Cliffs Councilwoman Ellen Park.

Cruz-Perez’s 5th district is also represented by a Black assemblyman, William Spearman (D-Camden).  Assemblyman William Moen (D-Camden) is white.   The 7th district is represented by a Black assemblyman, Herbert Conaway, Jr. (D-Delran), and Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel), who is white.  Gopal’s running mates, Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune) and Joanne Downey (D-Freehold), are white.

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