Some Republican officials are quietly pushing Amber Murad, a 32-year-old Watchung school board member, for State Assembly in the 21st district if a seat opens up this year.
Candidates are beginning to position themselves to run if Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) decides not to seek re-election to a seventh term this year in order to focus on a rematch against Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in 2022.
Kean’s retirement would likely mean that Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) would run for Senate, opening up his seat in the lower house.
Murad was elected to the Board of Education in 2020 after losing a Watching Borough Council race by just 35 votes in 2019.
“I would be interested if that seat opens up, absolutely,” Murad told the New Jersey Globe.
Murad could offer Republicans long-term protection of a legislative district that has become increasingly more competitive in recent years.
As a South Asian woman, her presence in the legislature when new districts are drawn for the 2023 election would likely make it difficult for a tie-breaker to put her in a Democratic district.
In 2011, Democrats made similar argument to make the seat of Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-Ridgefield), a Latina legislator from the 36th district, more Democratic. When Caride left the legislature in 2018 to take a cabinet post, she was replaced by a white male.
Ten years before that, then-State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove) was saved by the redistricting tie-breaker, Larry Bartels, because he was the only Asian American in the legislature. O’Toole was moved from a Union County district to one that extended to Bergen, and he returned to the Assembly.
Somerset Republican leaders are considering a bid to enforce a 2011 deal made with Republicans in Union to give them the next open Assembly seat.
The accord came in the days following 2011 legislative redistricting, when the new map put Bernards Township, where 16th district Assemblywoman Denise Coyle lived, into the 21st with Bramnick and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit).
Munoz is expected to seek re-election.
The race to fill Bramnick’s Assembly seat began early this week, when Summit Republican Municipal Chairman Steve Spurr announced that he would run if Kean’s retirement triggered an open Assembly seat.
New Providence Councilwoman Michele Matsikoudis is also receiving strong consideration for the seat, the NJ Globe has learned. Former Bernards Mayor Carol Bianchi, Warren Township Committeewoman Yolanda Maziarz, Bernards Mayor Janice Fields, and former Bernards Township Committeeman John Carpenter and Coyle are also potential candidates. A candidate from Morris County could also emerge as a candidate.