Three top New Jersey Democrats – Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald – today endorsed Caren Fitzpatrick for an open State Assembly seat in the 2nd legislative district.
Fitzpatrick, a two-term Atlantic County Commissioner, is seeking the Assembly seat Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) is giving up to run for the State Senate.
“As a lifelong Atlantic County resident, Caren Fitzpatrick understands the challenges facing working families in her community and is ready to take them on in Trenton,” Murphy said in a joint statement with Sweeney and Greenwald. “During her time as a County Commissioner, Caren has been a staunch advocate for women’s health services, and she’s worked tirelessly in support of Atlantic City’s continued revitalization efforts.”
If Fitzpatrick wins, she will become the first Democratic woman from Atlantic County to serve in the New Jersey Legislature, and the first woman since the venerable C. Delores Cooper (R-Atlantic City) retired in 1991.
The endorsement fits a push by Murphy to increase the number of women in public office.
Sweeney said Fitzpatrick “is the right choice for the State Assembly.
“I have been deeply impressed with Caren’s commitment to public service during her time in County government, in particular her passion for the economic recovery of Atlantic City,” Sweeney stated. “Caren has distinguished herself with the courage to confront difficult issues facing Atlantic County residents and I am confident she will continue to be a fighter for middle-class values.”
Murphy and Sweeney have already backed Mazzeo for the Senate seat Republican Chris Brown (R-Ventnor) is giving after four years. Murphy is also backing the re-election of Assemblyman John Armato.
“With both Caren and Assemblyman John Armato in the State Legislature, Atlantic County will have two exceptionally dedicated public servants leading the fight against the opioid crisis, and I’m thrilled to endorse their ticket for the State Assembly,” he said.
Greenwald said that Fitzpatrick was a proven vote-getter in Atlantic County.
“In these times, we need leaders who govern with resolve and as well as those who value compassion for their community,” Greenwald said. “As a leader at Meet AC, Caren has helped create the revitalization we have seen in Atlantic City in recent years. She understands the need for fiscal stewardship and has proven herself to be committed to the long-term growth of Atlantic County.”
Sweeney said that Fitzpatrick “brings a needed perspective to the state legislature and she has my full support as she joins our dynamic ticket in the 2nd legislative district.”
The move appears to reduce the chance of significant primary challenges in the second district, but it’s not clear whether it’ll help the Democrats much in the general election.
Former Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) has emerged as the presumptive Republican nominee for State Senate, and he’s teamed up with former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Claire Swift, a former deputy attorney general.
Atlantic City Councilman Jesse O. Kurtz is also seeking the endorsement of the Atlantic County GOP at their March 20 nominating convention.
A fourth Republican Assembly candidate, Atlantic County Commissioner John Risley, dropped his bid for the legislature on Monday.