Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach, who had been widely viewed as the Democratic Party’s top choice for an open State Assembly seat in the 16th district, told the New Jersey Globe that she has ruled out running.
“While I appreciate all the support and endorsements, my commitment is to the Town of Clinton and Hunterdon County,” Kovach said.
The incumbent, Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery), unexpectedly announced last Monday that she would not seek re-election to a second term.
Kovach is a three-term mayor from a Republican-leaning town and a former president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities and was being actively courted by party leaders to run for the legislature.
But Kovach is up for re-election as mayor this year and is not interested in giving up her local government post to serve in Trenton.
“My heart’s not in it,” she said.
With Kovach out of the race, Democrats are now focusing on other candidates to run the 16th, where State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough).
Kovach won with a landslide 68% of the vote in 2019 against her Republican challenger, Martin Prendergast. But with a 4-2 GOP majority on the town council, Kovach is taking her own re-election seriously.
Clinton has emerged as a swing town in Republican-leaning Hunterdon County with roughly the same number of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Last year, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) won Clinton by six percentage points against Rep.-elect Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield). Jack Ciattarelli caried Clinton by three points against Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021, and Joe Biden won it by seven points in 2020.
A former president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, Kovach was the Democratic nominee for Congress against Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) in 2014. Murphy nominated her to the board of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission and came to Clinton to swear her in after her last re-election.
A hands-on mayor who has been known to empty garbage cans on Main Street over the weekend herself to make the town of Clinton more appealing to tourists and residents.