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Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Muñoz has votes to become new Assembly minority leader

Deal with DiMaio, Thomson in place for first woman GOP floor leader since 1965; McClellan will be minority whip

By David Wildstein, October 15 2021 5:28 pm

Nancy Muñoz appears set to become the next minority leader of the New Jersey State Assembly after forging a coalition with John DiMaio, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) will drop his bid for the post and become the Minority Conference Leader, the number two slot in the Assembly GOP leadership.  The new minority whip will be Antwan McClellan, a freshman lawmaker from Cape May County.

Assemblyman Ned Thomson (R-Wall), who had also been campaigning for the post, will also exit the race and back Muñoz, sources have confirmed.

The New Jersey Globe tally gives Muñoz, a six-term assemblywoman from Summit, enough to clinch a majority of the GOP caucus in the lower house after the November 2 election.  Those numbers led to Thomson’s exit.  He will be offered the post of Assistant Minority Leader.

“We are excited to announce our leadership team for the next legislative session.  Nancy Munoz, Republican Leader, John DiMaio, Conference Leader, Antwan McClellan, Whip and Ned Thomson, Deputy Leader,” Muñoz, DiMaio, McClellan and Thomson said in a joint email to GOP legislators on Friday might.  “This team brings historic diverse representation to the Republican Assembly Caucus. We have spent the last several months speaking with all of you and believe we are the strongest team to advance our caucus’s positions on issues facing our state. Together, we will continue to work with you to get ready to hit the ground running in the new legislative session – working with a new, Republican, Governor.”

The new leadership team will also include Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan).

Hal Wirths (R-Wantage) will remain as the Republican Budget Officer.

A fourth candidate for leadership, Brian Bergen (R-Denville), remains in the race.

Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), the Assembly Minority Leader since 2012, is giving up his post to seek a State Senate seat.

The 67-year-old Muñoz is a retired nurse and mother of five who won a 2009 special election after her husband, Dr. Eric Muñoz, died unexpectedly.  She has been re-elected five times.

During the pandemic, Muñoz stepped up as a volunteer nurse – she showed up as an early front line health care worker and later administered vaccines.  When there was a personal protection equipment shortage, she made masks on her sewing machine.

Muñoz would become the first woman to serve as Assembly Minority Leader in New Jersey.  She will also become the first Republican woman to serve as a legislative floor leader since Marion West Higgins (R-Westwood) served as Majority Leader in 1964 and Speaker in 1965.

McClellan, who was among the finalists in the race for the GOP lieutenant governor nomination this sm

McClellan would become the first Black Republican to hold one of the top Assembly leadership posts since Herbert Tate, Sr. (R-Newark) was the Assistant Minority Leader – then the number two post – in 1962 and 1963.

The only other woman to serve as speaker was Sheila Oliver, who held the post from 2010 to 2014 and is now New Jersey’s lieutenant governor.   Prior to her election to Congress, Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) was Assembly Majority Leader from 2006 to 2010.

The Senate President post has never been occupied by a woman or a person of color.  Two women – Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) from 2010 to 2012 and Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) since 2012 – have served as Senate Majority Leader.

This story was updated at 8:42 PM with a comment from Muñoz, DiMaio, McClellan and Thomson.

 

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