With the boundaries of Essex County’s legislative districts entirely reshuffled for next year’s elections, Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange) declined to comment today on the possibility of launching a campaign for State Senate against two Democratic incumbents.
“I’ve got no comment on any of that,” McKeon said. “We’ll see how all the politics work themselves out.”
The redrawn 27th legislative district, which McKeon has represented since 2002, is now home to not one but two state senators: 27th district State Sen. and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) and 34th district State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair). Codey and Gill have said they intend to run for re-election, but both are in their seventies, and McKeon began quietly testing the waters for a possible Senate campaign earlier this year.
The more likely outcome, however, is that McKeon stays in the Assembly and runs on the Democratic line with Codey and Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-Montclair). Gill, who has a weak relationship with top Democrats in both Essex and Passaic Counties, would probably be relegated to an off-the-line campaign, if she chose to forge ahead at all.
That would leave the majority-minority 27th district with an all-white male slate, something that Essex Democrats will likely spin by noting the diversity of the party’s slates in neighboring districts. It would also mean the 64-year-old McKeon would be stranded in the lower chamber for another four years, trapped behind the 76-year-old – but indefatigable – Codey.
Codey is the longest-serving legislator in New Jersey history, first winning a seat in the Assembly in 1973. Gill is no newbie to Trenton either; she was elected to her first Assembly term in 1993.
McKeon has had several other opportunities for higher office pass him by in recent years. He floated a potential congressional campaign against Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) in 2018 but dropped the idea when now-Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair)’s campaign picked up steam, and earlier this year he was on the shortlist for state attorney general but got beaten out by Matt Platkin.