Home>Campaigns>Essex readies for a young legislative delegation after ’23 election

Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake at Gov. Phil Murphy's fiscal year 2023 budget address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Essex readies for a young legislative delegation after ’23 election

A majority of legislators expected to win in Essex this year are under 50

By David Wildstein, February 24 2023 8:24 pm

The Essex County delegation to the New Jersey Legislature is on the verge of getting younger next year, with seven of the thirteen likely winners of the 2023 election born after State Sen. and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) was elected to the State Assembly in 1973.

Turnover in Essex, assuming organization lines hold, will help reduce the average age in Trenton

Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange) is expected to move up from the Assembly to the Senate in the newly-drawn 34th district.  Born in 1986, she could wind up as the youngest member of the State Senate.

The leading candidates for State Assembly in the 34th are Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia, who was born in 1981, and Carmen T. Morales, the principal of Newark Tech High School, who was born in 1977.   They will replace Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley), who was born in 1940. 

In the 40th district, Essex County Republican Chairman Al Barlas appears headed to the State Assembly to fill an open seat.  Barlas, born in 1981, was the Republican chairman of the New Jersey Apportionment Commission that redrew legislative districts last year.  He is set to succeed Kevin Rooney (R-Wyckoff), a Bergen County Republican who is not seeking re-election.

Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), born in 1974, was 33-years-old when she was elected to the State  Senate in 2007.  Despite her seniority – 24 senators have entered the upper house since she did – Ruiz remains the fourth-youngest member of the New Jersey Senate.

The two assemblywomen from the 29th district are both young: Eliana Pintor-Marin (D-Newark), the Assembly Budget Committee chair, was born in 1980; and Shanique Speight (D-Newark) was born in 1978.

The new senator from the 28th, Renee Burgess (D-Irvington), was born in 1971 and is the sixth-youngest person in the Senate.  

Another likely freshman lawmaker is younger than her predecessor: Garnet Hall, the deputy Essex County Clerk and the leading candidate to replace retiring Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-South Orange), was born in 1959; she is eight years younger than Jasey.

Hall’s expected running mate, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Newark), was born in 1943 and is seeking her ninth term in Trenton.  Her late husband, Donald K. Tucker, was elected to the Newark Council in 1974 and to the State Assemblyman in 1998; he was holding both offices when he died in 2005 and remains the last New Jersey legislator to be re-elected posthumously. 

Codey, born in 1946, was 26-years-old when he was elected to the Assembly in 1973.  He moved up to the Senate in 1981 and is now serving his 50th year in the New Jersey Legislature.    He is the overwhelming favorite to win re-election this year, even though redistricting forced him into a 27th district primary with another incumbent, State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair).  Gill, born in 1948, was elected to the Assembly in 1993 and the Senate in 2001

Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin (D-Montclair), a New Jersey political legend, will be seeking a tenth term in the State Assembly in a redrawn 37th district.  The son of a state senator, Essex county freeholder and influential labor leader, Giblin has enjoyed a storied political career that included serving as a freeholder, surrogate, Essex County Democratic chairman, and New Jersey Democratic State Chairman. 

Born in 1947, just 49 days after Codey, Giblin was almost the state’s youngest assemblyman.

With Democrats winning 66 Assembly seats in  the 1973 Watergate landslide, Giblin came within 1,079 votes of becoming an assemblyman in one of just four legislative districts in the state that elected a Republican senator and two GOP assembly members.  Giblin had challenged Thomas Kean, then the Assembly Speaker, and his running mate, former Essex GOP vice chair Jane Burgio  

The youngest member of the 27th district Democratic ticket is Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange), who was born in 1958 and has spent nearly 22 years in the lower house, most of it waiting for Codey to retire.


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