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Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan. (Photo: Devra Keenan).

Growing consensus that Jaffer’s successor should be a woman

Montgomery mayor, deputy mayor not ruling out Assembly bids in the 16th district

By David Wildstein, January 18 2023 12:01 am

As the dust settles on the unforeseen retirement of freshman Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery), Democratic party leaders appear to ready to rule out a male successor to run with State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) in the 16th legislative district.

“There’s no way three men will be on the ticket.  No way,” a Central Jersey Democratic official involved in picking candidates told the New Jersey Globe.  “It won’t fly.  No way will it fly.”

Jaffer’s announcement on Monday that she won’t be a candidate in 2023 leaves Democrats with little time to pick her successor.  All four counties in the district – Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset – award their organization lines through open conventions, and the filing deadline is March 27, one week earlier than usual to reflect a new law passed by the legislature.

No one immediately jumped into the race, but nobody is dismissing the idea either.  And there appears to be a heightened sense of the need for diversity on the Democratic ticket to replace Jaffer, the first Muslim woman to serve in the New Jersey Legislature.

Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan is keeping her options open.

“I’m not ruling it out, but I’m not chomping at the bit,” said Keenan.  “I would hope that whatever the decision is a more representative form of government.

Keenan would like Montgomery, which has flipped from red to blue over the last decade, to keep the seat.  Zwicker carried it with 62% of the vote in 2021.

Neena Singh, Montgomery’s deputy mayor, said she was “shocked and surprised” that Jaffer isn’t running and hasn’t had time to fully consider if she wants to run for the Assembly.

“At this point it’s very new,” Singh said.  “I’m not closing the door, but I’m very happy where I am.  I enjoy making a difference in Montgomery.

“I feel it’s important that there be South Asian diversity at the Assembly level,” she stated.  “Never say never.  We need a seat at the table.  We need diversity.  We need to have different perspectives.”

Republicans might also turn to Montgomery for a candidate, with GOP Municipal Chair Rosy Thakkar emerging as a potential candidate.  Singh and Thakkar could be the first Sikh members of the New Jersey Legislature.

Princeton Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, who sought the seat two years ago before Democrats settle on Jaffer, told the New Jersey Globe that she is mulling a run.

“I think all the seats should go to Princeton, because we deliver the most votes,” said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, who said Jaffer has been a good legislator.  “A Princeton candidate would be very viable.”

Hughes stopped short of endorsing anyone for the seat.

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