Home>Highlight>Oroho sees potential for cooperation with South Jersey Democrats

Senate Minority Leader Steven Oroho. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Oroho sees potential for cooperation with South Jersey Democrats

By Joey Fox, January 31 2022 1:12 pm

With former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford)’s redistricting commission ouster exposing a potential rift between South and North Jersey Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Steven Oroho (R-Franklin) said today that he is optimistic Republicans can work with any Democrats who may grow frustrated with legislative leadership.

“Anytime that there’s some sort of rift within any caucus – we have 16 [senators], so we have to negotiate everything anyways,” Oroho said. “So the more negotiations we can have from the minority party, the better it is… Anything that helps to make sure that more of our ideas are pushed ahead is good for the state of New Jersey.”

Sweeney, who lost his Senate seat in November, was unexpectedly kicked out of the Legislative Apportionment Commission last week by state Democratic chairman LeRoy Jones Jr., who reportedly feared that Sweeney would work with Republicans on the commission to undermine the remaining four Democratic commissioners.

So far, Sweeney’s ouster has not caused any major outcry from South Jersey Democrats; on a Zoom call yesterday with a number of Democratic legislators and staffers, no one contested Jones’ decision. 

But there is precedent for a South-North rift in the legislature. In 1999, Assemblyman Joseph Roberts (D-Bellmawr) led a breakaway coalition of seven South Jersey Democrats who refused to join the main Democratic caucus after Roberts lost a bid for Assembly Minority Leader. Three of those Democrats still serve today: Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees), Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Delran), and State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington), who was a member of the Assembly at the time.

The Legislative Apportionment Commission itself, which will now have Pinelands Commission Chair Laura Matos as its tenth member, is proceeding with its map-drawing work amid an outcry over the apparent favoritism Democrats on the Congressional Redistricting Commission received last year. That commission’s tiebreaker, John Wallace, chose a Democratic-drawn congressional map after a shadowy process.

Oroho, who penned a letter with Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) expressing their concerns about the map, said that he hopes the Legislative Apportionment Commission is more transparent and produces a fairer map.

“Obviously, we think the best thing for the people of New Jersey is to have a Republican majority,” Oroho said. “We want to have a fair map, and we want to have a map where people feel they’re being well represented.”

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