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New Jersey State Senate. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy will need to go through red wall of courtesy to get nominations confirmed

Republicans will have senatorial courtesy in 15 of 21 New Jersey counties next year

By David Wildstein, November 05 2021 2:14 pm

One dramatic alteration to New Jersey’s political landscape as Gov. Phil Murphy prepares for a likely second term is the outsized influence Republicans have over gubernatorial nomination.

Republicans now have senatorial courtesy – the unwritten but biblical rule that no nomination can advance through the confirmation process without the approval of the home county senator – in 15 of 21 New Jersey counties.

In order for Murphy to make an appointment that requires Senate confirmation – cabinet posts, boards and authorities, prosecutors and judges – he will need to deal with the reality of a red wall.

For example, State Sen.-elect Edward R. Durr (R-Swedesboro), who appears to have unseated Senate President Steve Sweeney, now has courtesy over all gubernatorial nominations in Gloucester and Salem counties – and part of Cumberland.  That means no judges can be confirmed there without Durr’s approval.

The red wall is especially prevalent in South Jersey in a post-Sweeney era, with Republican senators having courtesy over all appointments in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem and Ocean counties.  Camden is the lone exception, although State Sen.-elect Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) will have courtesy over nominees in four Camden County municipalities in her district.

That comes after Democratic losses in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 8th districts over the last four years.

The unwritten senatorial courtesy rule applies for the entire county where a senator lives, and to any municipality in another county the senator represents — but not to every town in every county outside  their residence.   For example, State Sen.-elect Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) has courtesy over every nomination in Union County, and any nomination involving residents of Chatham Borough and Long Hill in Morris County, and Bernards, Far Hills, Warren and Watchung in Somerset County,

Republican senators also have courtesy in Bergen — State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) controls whether Englewood resident Rachel Wainer Apter, Murphy’s pick to serve as an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, gets confirmed – and in Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

But in the 16th district, where Democrat Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) has won the open seat of retiring Republican Kip Bateman, this will be the first time in state history that there is not a senator from Somerset to exercise countywide senatorial courtesy.  Zwicker, Bramnick, Michael Doherty (R-Oxford),  Robert Smith (D-Piscataway), all have courtesy over nominees in the Somerset municipalities they represent.

The same thing goes for Hunterdon, where Zwicker, Doherty, and to a small extent, Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) have courtesy over Murphy appointees from the towns they represent.

There are only two counties in the state where only Democratic senators have courtesy: Hudson and Mercer.  That’s also mostly true in Essex, unless the governor were to pick a cabinet member who lives in Cedar Grove or in one of the four Essex towns in the 26th district.

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