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Assemblywoman Angela McKnight. (Photo: Assembly Majority Office).

McKnight refuses to comment on state of affairs in 31st district

Cunningham has been out of commission for months, but no clear successor has emerged

By Joey Fox, January 20 2023 11:55 am

The Hudson County-based 31st legislative district is in something of a limbo right now, with State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) facing cognitive health issues and Democrats uncertain of who could take her spot. But one of the figures at the center of that limbo, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), refused to say today where things stand.

“No comment,” McKnight said repeatedly while walking through the halls of the legislature.

Cunningham, who has served in the Senate since 2007, has not been to the statehouse in more than six months; at this point, few expect her to ever return. She hasn’t resigned her seat, however, in part because it’s not clear whether she has the capacity to make such major decisions.

Hudson Democrats have struggled to come up with a successor on the 2023 ticket for Cunningham, who is the only Black senator and the only female senator currently representing Hudson County.

McKnight, now in her fourth term as an assemblywoman, is one possibility for the seat. Others include Hudson County Commissioners Bill O’Dea and Jerry Walker, while ​​John Minella, the chief of staff to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, is considered a potential caretaker senator but would not run for a full term. 

Ultimately, Fulop will be the one to decide on Cunningham’s replacement, thanks to Hudson County’s longstanding arrangement giving mayors discretion over the county’s legislative delegation.

There’s also the possibility for more turmoil on the 31st district ballot, too; McKnight’s running mate, Assemblyman William Sampson (D-Bayonne), has been embroiled in difficulties recently regarding absenteeism at his crane operator job.

Sampson first joined the ticket in 2021, after Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis decided to give Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) the boot. Davis essentially controls who holds one Assembly seat in the 31st district – Bayonne is a little less than one-third of the district’s population – so Sampson’s fate is in his hands. 

Elsewhere in Hudson County, arrangements have already been made for no fewer than four legislators to depart Trenton and a fifth to move from the Assembly to the Senate.

In the 32nd district – which, confusingly, is the successor to the old 33rd district – Hudson Democrats will run a slate of Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) for the Senate and newcomers John Allen and Jessica Ramirez for the Assembly, with Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-Hoboken) on her way out.

The 33rd district (formerly the 32nd), meanwhile, will feature a ticket of State Sen. Brian Stack (D-Union City), North Bergen Commissioner Julio Marenco, and West New York Mayor Gabe Rodriguez; State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen), Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York), and Assemblyman Pedro Mejia (D-Secaucus) are all losing their seats in the reshuffle.

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