A former independent candidate for U.S. Senate and Congress with a history of bashing Cory Booker, Phil Murphy, and Tom Malinowski has dropped her bid to run as a Democrat for State Assembly in the 24th district after Democratic leaders reviewed her past statements and decided they would rather have nobody on the ballot than her.
Vernonia Fernandez showed up at the Morris County Democratic convention last week and asked to run in the 24th, an unwinnable race for Democrats. The party had nobody else, and she won the organization line.
But later, at the suggestion of some influential Democrats, party leaders began to look more closely at the viciousness of her attacks against Booker and Malinowski while she was running against them. The result was that Democrats in Morris County pulled their line.
Fernandez told the New Jersey Globe she would not file her petitions today.
“There are multiple reasons,” she said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Last year, during a campaign for Congress she eventually ended, Fernandez slammed Tom Malinowski, a two-term Democratic in a tough race, for trading stocks and a House Ethics Committee investigation. She smacked Booker for being a tool of special interest groups. A closer vetting led Democrats to walk away from Fernandez.
The 24th district has more registered Republicans than any other district in the state, with 31,172 more Republicans than Democrats, and is one of two districts in the state where Republicans outnumber unaffiliated voters. The district hasn’t elected a Democrat to the New Jersey Legislature since 1973 when Robert Shelton (D-Ogdensburg) unseated Republican Assemblyman Walter Keough-Dwyer (R-Vernon) in the anti-Republican Watergate wave.
Morris County Democrats picked Edmund Khanoo, a former Planned Parenthood finance executive, to run for the open State Senate seat. With the fight for the GOP nomination likely over, Khanoo is expected to face Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Wantage) for the seat of retiring Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho.
Khanoo’s wife, Alicia Sharma, received party support for the Assembly seat. She lost bids for the Mount Olive Township Council in 2021 and for Morris County Commissioner in 2022.
There are no announced candidates for the open slot on the Democratic ticket, and party leaders say they don’t expect to file anyone.
The last chance to fill out the legislative ticket in the Sussex-Morris-Hunterdon district will come in the primary election when a candidate can run as a write-in and claim the nod as long as they get at least 100 votes.