Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey) is headed to the State Senate as the choice of the Hudson County Democratic Organization to replace Sandra Cunningham in the 31st district, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
Barbara Stamato, a Jersey City Democratic stalwart and the sister of former Jersey City Mayor Gerald McCann, will replace McKnight in the State Assembly.
McKnight and Stamato were picked by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.
Cunningham, who is in her sixteenth year in the Senate, has been absent from Trenton since June 022 as she deals with cognitive health issues. She has not announced a retirement.
McKnight’s fortunes rose suddenly as the four-term assemblywoman was increasingly viewed as a safe choice for the seat, at least in the short-term. Jersey City Councilwoman Denise Ridley had received serious attention, but Hudson Democrats wanted to avoid a 2024 special election for her Ward A council seat.
With McKnight, Democrats are keeping the Senate seat in the hands of a Black woman in a state where there are just four black women serving in the upper house. The selection of McKnight also bolsters Fulop’ record on backing a diverse legislative delegation in Hudson as he prepares to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2025.
“I’m proud to support this new legislative team for the 31st District that includes one of the state’s most dynamic, community-focused leaders in Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, a devoted public servant in Barbara Stamato and a respected labor leader in Assemblyman Will Sampson,” saidFulop. “With this announcement and once our candidates are successful in their upcoming elections, Jersey City will now be represented in Trenton by a team of four legislators who truly reflect the full diversity of our community in Raj Mukherji, Angela McKnight, Barbara Stamato and Jessica Ramirez.”
Stamato serves as vice chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization and as the Jersey City Democratic municipal chair. She is a Fulop stalwart.
Assemblyman William Sampson IV (D-Bayonne) will also get party support for a second term. He is the pick of Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis.
McKnight, 45, was elected to the Assembly in 2015 after Democrats withdrew party support for Charles Mainor (D-Jersey City). She runs AngelaCARES, a Jersey City-based non-profit group. She chairs the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee and is a deputy majority leader.
“Senator Cunningham has been a strong advocate for the 31st District and an inspirational leader for Hudson County, and as Chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization I wholeheartedly thank her for her service,” said Anthony Vainieri, Jr., the Hudson County Democratic chairman. “I’m excited to support this new team of legislators who will work alongside the rest of our delegation to fight for the people of Hudson County and the values we believe in.”
Two candidates are in the Senate race so far: Democrat Michael Griffin, an ally of Jersey City Councilman Frank Gilmore, and Republican Luis Soto. Griffin launched his Senate bid yesterday, the Hudson County View reported.
The 31st district is one of the most staunchly Democratic in the state; Gov. Phil Murphy won 71% there in 2021.
The 31st district has included Bayonne and part of Jersey City since New Jersey went to a 40-distict map in 1973. The new map that will be in force for this election added Kearny to the district.
“With redistricting placing Kearny into the 31st District for the first time, it was very important to me to know that our community will continue to be represented in Trenton by thoughtful, dedicated public servants who will advocate for our needs,” Santos said. “I’m proud to support this new team of legislators and I’m confident that they will deliver the representation that our community needs.”
Republicans won four Hudson County Assembly seats in 1985, but Bayonne has not been represented in the legislature by a Republican for more than 101 years.
This story was updated at 11:53 AM with comment from Fulop, Davis, Santos and Vainieri.