Democrats in the 16th legislative district aren’t concerned about a lame duck agenda laden with controversial bills imperiling their chances at re-election in 2021.
“No, because I don’t really see them as liberal issues. I think what do you need to do, what’s the best policy to do, and I think if you just focus on that and not bucket them and say ‘we need to a do a conservative issue. We need to do a progressive issue,’” Assemblyman Roy Freiman said. “You just try to do good policy. That’s what I’m here for.”
With the year’s Assembly elections over, Democrats in the legislature are moving bills they feared would harm their candidates at the polls at the start of the month, including measures to give drivers licenses to immigrants in the country illegally and marijuana legalization, though the latter has stalled again after a lack of votes in the Senate.
Though Freiman and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker won by relatively-safe margins this year — Freiman by about four points and Zwicker by about five — they represent one of only three districts in the state with split representation. (State Sen. Kip Bateman, a Republican, represents the 16th district in the legislature’s upper chamber.)
Some of the laws being pushed by Democratic leadership in lame duck likely would’ve hurt Democrats at the polls, though Zwicker said that political backlash isn’t the driving force behind their support, or lack thereof, for a given piece of legislation.
“It’s still not about re-election. It’s never been about re-election,” he said. “It’s about evaluating each of these bills and deciding whether it represents the best interests of my constituents and the state of New Jersey, and that would be true no matter what.”
It’s possible that voters will forget about the controversial bills passed over the next five weeks by November 2021, but the sessions agenda will likely give Republican challengers in the 16th and elsewhere in the state ammunition against Democratic incumbents.
At least one Republican thinks that ammo will be usable to years from now.
“I think when we took eight months off and we haven’t been in session and the first thing we do is vote for prisoners’ rights and make it celebration of prisoners day here in the Caucus, I think that prioritizes what we have,” Assemblyman Ryan Peters said. “We have housing problems. We have small businesses being ranked low. We still haven’t recovered from the recession here in the state … This is a priority, where the Democratic party is headed. Let the voters see it for themselves.”