Morris County Republican Chairwoman Laura Ali launched an attack at Democrats in the solidly-blue 27th district, urging lawmakers there to call for an investigation into the handling of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes.
“There are thousands of families who lost loved ones in nursing home due to Covid-19 and thousands more nursing facility staff who here infected. Those people want answers about how the state handled the coronavirus, and they have not received any answers,” she said. “It’s time the legislators who are leaders in the Democratic party demanded an investigation to provide the answers.”
Former Gov. Dick Codey (D-Roseland) holds the district’s Senate seat, while Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-South Orange) and Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange) represent it in the lower chamber.
Republicans have long targeted attacks over the 7,780 long-term-care center residents and staff who died after contracting the virus, though Codey saw the offensive as a bid to politicize a pandemic that continues to rage 11 months after New Jersey’s first confirmed case.
“Let’s defeat this virus and move on. We shouldn’t be playing politics with the virus. It’s not the time for it. People are still dying,” Codey told the New Jersey Globe. “I just buried a mother and her daughter because of the virus. Not time for this.”
The state senator owns and operates a funeral home in Boonton.
His district isn’t one that sees competitive races. Democrats haven’t lost an Assembly race there since 1979, and they’ve held the district’s Senate seat ever since the state adopted its 40-district legislative map in 1973.
Codey’s held his seat since 1981, when redistricting drastically shifted the balance of power there in Democrats’ favor. The former governor won re-election there in 2017 by 39 points. Jasey and McKeon won re-election in 2019 by 14- and 15-point margins, respectively.
Republicans are still recruiting candidates in the district. It’s not clear how the primary will play out. Republicans in Morris County will convene Saturday for a vote to adopt an organizational line meant to bolster candidate selection as Democratic strength grows in Morris.
But like other members of the GOP around the state, the chairwoman appears to be banking on a backlash against Murphy’s virus response efforts.
“The governor has played the blame game throughout the pandemic,” she said. “He blamed Washington agencies; he blamed the former president. What he didn’t do was take responsibility for the way his administration handled COVID-19 infection for our most vulnerable residents.”