Essex County Democrats tonight elected Jacqueline S. Yustein, a longtime party leader and former Glen Ridge councilwoman, to serve as the new assemblywoman from the 28th legislative district.
Yustein was elected without opposition in a special election convention tonight to fill the seat vacated last month when Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley) resigned to join the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield board of directors.
She will fill the remainder of Caputo’s term, which expires on January 9, 2024, and will not be a candidate for a full term.
Redistricting moved Glen Ridge into the 34th district. Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia and Carmen T. Morales, a Belleville resident who is the principal of Newark Tech High School, are unopposed in the June primary for the two open Assembly seats.
It’s not immediately clear when Yustein will be sworn in. That will be up to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.
Coughlin has not yet decided who will replace Caputo as chair of the Assembly Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee.
Typically when new legislators enter office late in a term, they are assigned the committees of their predecessors. That would put Yustein on the Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee, and the Joint Committee on Public Schools.
Yustein will also likely inherit Caputo’s district office in Belleville.
The Glen Ridge Democratic municipal chair, Yustein has been involved in Essex County politics since the 1970s and served on the borough council in the 1990s.
A member of the party’s progressive wing over the last five decades, she worked on Frank Lautenberg’s first race for the U.S. Senate in 1982 and served as the director of the Essex County Division of Community Health Services.
This was the second special election convention in the 28th district in seven months; in September 2022, Democrats elected State Sen. Renee Burgess (D-Irvington) after Ronald Rice resigned.
Once Yustein is sworn in, both Newark districts, the 28th and 29th, will be represented in the legislature entirely by women.