A new legislative map that places two Democratic state senators from Essex County into the same legislative district could advance the Senate confirmation of Matt Platkin for attorney general
Montclair, the Essex County municipality with the most Democratic primary votes in the newly-drawn 27th district and the site of a possible showdown between Richard Codey (D-Roseland) and Nia Gill (D-Montclair), is Platkin’s hometown.
Platkin has already won the backing of key progressive leaders who worked with him on reproductive rights, social justice and gun issues when he served as Gov. Phil Murphy’s chief counsel from 2018 to 2020, including Blue Wave NJ president Marcia Marley, a Montclair resident who serves as a Democratic National Committeewoman from New Jersey.
Support for Platkin is also coming from Democrats in Livingston, Millburn and West Orange, all municipalities currently represented by Codey, a former governor and a legislators since 1974, and new to Gill, who began her career as a lawmaker in 1994.
If Codey is first out of the box to support the nomination of Platkin, as expected, it could put Gill in a corner as she seeks progressive votes in what will likely be an off-the-line primary run to keep her seat.
“Matt Platkin is a Montclair resident and his beliefs reflect Essex County’s robust progressive outlook. He’s for everything Governor Codey, Senator Gill and this district stands for – equality, justice, fairness and democracy,” said Hetty Rosenstein, the retired CWA state director and a staunch Platkin supporter. “I can’t see how either of them can hold up this appointment and expect to win a primary in this district. Why would they do that?”
Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics at Rider University, thinks Platkin’s nomination could be an issue in the 2023 Senate primary if one of the candidates isn’t on board.
“Since Platkin’s progressive supporters mobilized quickly for the purpose of advancing his confirmation, it would be reasonable to expect they’ll be ready to pounce on any detractor who happens to be running in the primary,” Rasmussen said. “And in primaries that are often lower turnout, every well-organized group can make a difference.”
But one prominent progressive activist from Montclair, Mara Novak, doesn’t think Platkin’s nomination will necessarily be a campaign issue in June 2023, calling the confirmation fight “inside baseball.”
“She does vote against the party frequently. She can run on an ‘I’m an independent voice’ easily in that scenario,” Novak said. “I’d be shocked if her decision on Platkin is politically based. I’d be surprised if she changes course.”
So far, Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) is the only Essex senator to sign off on Platkin’s nomination. Under the unwritten rule of senatorial courtesy, Platkin will need the consent of Codey, Gill and State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) before the Judiciary Committee will consider his nomination.
Gill has used courtesy to block nominees in the past.
In 2007, she faced criticism for delaying signoff for Attorney General Stuart Rabner, an Essex County resident who had been nominated by Gov. Jon Corzine as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Gill relented after a one-week standoff.
Theodore Stephens III has remained acting Essex County Prosecutor since 2018 after Gill has refused to sign off on his nomination by Murphy.
Codey is already outmaneuvering Gill just ten days into the new map. He’s been speaking with party leaders to secure commitments for his 14th term in the Senate. Gill has not yet spoken to key Democrats who might be involved in awarding the organization line, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Last Friday, Codey was quick to voice his approval for President Joe Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. It took Gill several hours to comment on Brown Jackson.
As of last November, Codey had $827,658 in his campaign warchest. Gill had $20,701 cash-on-hand.
Platkin is the acting attorney general as he awaits Senate confirmation.