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State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Cranford). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Cryan, slate win in District 20

By Nikita Biryukov, June 08 2021 9:22 pm

State Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union) and his Assembly running mates swatted away a slate of challengers led by Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle) Tuesday.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Rev. Reginald Atkins, Roselle’s municipal Democratic chairman, defeated Holley running mates Christian Veliz and Diane Murray-Clements.

Union County Democrats appointed Holley to his Assembly seat in 2015 after Cryan departed the state legislature to become Union County Sheriff. The senator returned to Trenton after winning a 2017 race for State Senate.

The relationship between the two incumbents grew rocky last year after Holley advocated against a bill that would have eliminated a religious vaccination exemption for school-aged children. The bill drew large groups of anti-vaccine protestors to the statehouse for days on end, and the bill eventually failed in the Senate despite passing the lower chamber.

Holley’s advocacy against the bill — he lobbied members of the Legislative Black Caucus against it — won him few friends in the chamber, but the assemblyman embraced anti-vaccine activism in the days and months that followed.

He appeared on anti-vaccine conservative commentator Bill Spadea’s radio show, though it’s unclear whether such appearances would do much to aid him in the heavily Democratic 20th district.

Despite vaccines becoming an integral part of Holley’s political brand, the assemblyman’s campaign focused heavily on policing issues, attacking Cryan over a bill defining police chokeholds as instances of deadly force.

The measure cleared the Assembly with a wide bipartisan margin but hasn’t moved in the Senate since it was introduced last June.

Cryan and his slate ran on the Union County organizational line, leaving Holley and his team with a less favorable ballot position, one without Gov. Phil Murphy at the top of the ticket.

The district is heavily Democratic — Cryan won his 2017 general election by about 68 points — and the winner of the Democratic primary is all but assured to win again in November.

A third slate of candidates led by Jason Krychiw remained on the ballot despite them dropping their campaign after the New Jersey Globe reported Krychiw embellished his resume.

His Assembly running mates, Ricky Castaneda and Aissa Heath, also withdrew from the race, though it was too late to have their names pulled from the ballot. The same was true of candidates for Union County Commission and Union Township Committee.

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