Update: Democratic municipal leaders in Essex County met on Saturday and unanimously awarded the organization line for State Assembly to Alixon Collazos. The New Jersey Globe has also confirmed that the Passaic County line will be awarded to Collazos.
One of the most consequential political careers of the last 50 years in New Jersey will soon come to a close with the decision of Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin (D-Montclair), a powerful labor leader and hugely respected officeholder, not to seek re-election after eighteen years in the New Jersey Legislature.
Giblin’s replacement will be Alixon Collazos, a former aide to Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Englewood) and an immigrant who came to the U.S. from Colombia at age 14. She is a public affairs executive at the BGill Group, a firm run by her husband, Essex County commissioner Brendan Gill (D-Montclair).
“I will not be seeing a new term in the New Jersey General Assembly,” Giblin told the New Jersey Globe. “It has been my greatest honor to serve as an assemblyman, freeholder, surrogate, and party chair, working to improve the quality of life for the people of New Jersey.”
Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr. has scheduled a meeting with municipal chairs in the 27th district today to discuss the Assembly race.
Giblin cited increased responsibilities at the 6,300-member union he runs, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68. He said the union had opened a new training facility and office in Atlantic City and that he has become the Secretary-Treasurer of the Northeast Conference of the union, with 73,000 members. He’s been the president of the Essex-West Hudson Labor Council, AFL-CIO, for 27 years. He serves on multiple charitable boards, including one that supports the Burn Unit at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center. He also pointed to his five children and eleven grandchildren.
“I will continue to be involved in my union and civic responsibilities, Giblin stated. “I will serve until my term is complete.”
Earlier this week, Giblin became the target of a complaint filed by his longtime chief of staff, Lolita Cruz, alleging that the longtime lawmaker yelled at her. In an interview with POLITICO, Giblin denied mistreating Cruz, his top aide, for the last fourteen years. Party leaders suggested that he retire. In advance of Monday’s filing deadline, Giblin becomes the 26th incumbent legislator not to seek re-election.
There had been speculation that the 76-year-old Giblin, who has been dealing with some health issues, had already been considering retirement, but he announced early this year that he would seek a tenth term in the legislature.
Democrats in Essex and Passaic counties intend to put Collazos on the organization line with State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) and Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange), the newly-drawn 27th district, which extends from Millburn to Montclair and then into Clifton.
They are facing a primary challenge from State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and her running mates, Frank Kasper, a public school teacher from Clifton, and Eve Robinson, a former Montclair school board member. Legislative redistricting placed Codey and Gill in the same district.
Montclair is one of North Jersey’s Democratic strongholds, producing the second-highest number of votes.
Collazos also served as Latino Outreach director for Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2017 campaign and as a grants manager for Millennium Strategies. She is a Democratic State Committeewoman and active in local community groups in Montclair.
If she wins the primary and general elections – the 27th district is solidly Democratic, and Murphy won it in 2021 by a 2-1 margin – Collazos will boost the number of Latinas in the Essex County legislative delegation from likely two – Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) and Carmen Morales, a high school principal from Belleville who is the organization Assembly candidate in the 34th district – to three.
Giblin said he would support the candidates running on the organization line.
“I’ve been an organization Democrat all my life. There is no reason to change at this stage of the game,” he said. “I understand the complexities of putting together tickets.”
Giblin’s retirement potentially balances the organization slate, which had included three white Irish Catholic men where the 64-year-old McKeon, known as the Prince Charles of Essex because of his longtime desire to succeed Codey in the Senate, was the young man on the ticket.
The 47-year-old Collazos will also reduce the average age of the 27th district organization ticket from 72 to 62. She would also flip the Assembly seat from a Pro-Life Democrat to a supporter of reproductive rights.