Like most Democrats, Princeton Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros was caught by surprise on Monday when she learned that Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery) will give up her 16th district State Assembly seat after just one term.
Less than two weeks ago, Pirone Lambros was sworn in to her second term on the Princeton Township Council, and figured she had her near future mapped out after setting her local agenda for the year.
Now she must consider whether she wants to run for the Assembly in a campaign that forces a short runway for the June primary – this race could be over quickly, once party leaders in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties decide who they want – and a competitive general election in the 16th district, which was drawn to become more competitive under a new map approved last year.
“I’m interested. I’ll definitely consider it,” Pirone Lambros told the New Jersey Globe. “I had no idea that this was coming.”
Pirone Lambros sought the Democratic Assembly nomination in 2021, when Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) gave up his seat to run for Senate. But once party leaders came to an agreement that Somerset County would get the open seat, Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy, coalesced behind Jaffer.
The last legislator from Princeton was Reed Gusciora, who won the seat in 1995. He moved to Trenton in 2011 after redistricting moved Princeton from the 15th into the 16th, which at the time was all-Republican.
Since then, many Princeton Democrats have argued that the lopsided margins they deliver to their candidates – Zwicker took 82% of the vote there in his 2021 Senate race against former Rep. Michael Pappas – earns them a piece of the 16th district legislative delegation. Zwicker’s 5,194-vote plurality in Princeton is nearly equal to his 5,205-vote margin districtwide.