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Bloomfield Councilwoman Sarah Cruz at a special election convention for the 28th legislative district on September 9, 2022. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Sarah Cruz open to potential Assembly bid

Bloomfield councilwoman eyed as possible Timberlake successor

By Joey Fox, September 12 2022 10:45 am

Bloomfield, population 53,105, is currently one of the largest towns in New Jersey to have zero hometown representatives in Trenton. But thanks to New Jersey’s new legislative district map, that’s looking likely to change next year, and Bloomfield Third Ward Councilwoman Sarah Cruz indicated on Friday that she’s open to the idea of running for a seat in the Assembly.

“I think it’s an interesting option for a lot of people,” Cruz said at the Essex County Democratic convention to replace State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Newark), an election won unanimously by Irvington Council President Renee Burgess.

Asked whether she might be one of those people, Cruz said, “I don’t know at this point – I’m just here to support Renee today.”

Under the legislative district lines drawn earlier this year, State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and State Sen./former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) were thrown into the same district, leaving behind a new open 34th district Senate seat that looks custom-built for Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange).

Timberlake has been notably silent on her future plans, so a public campaign to succeed her in the Assembly hasn’t yet begun; Essex Democrats tend to wait until later in the cycle to sort out their ticket. But assuming she does seek a promotion to the Senate, the widespread assumption has been that her Assembly seat will go to a candidate from Bloomfield, the new district’s second-largest town.

Cruz’s fellow Bloomfield Councilwoman Wartyna Davis has also been mentioned as a potential candidate; if she were elected, she’d be the first openly gay woman to ever serve in the legislature. (Former Ocean County Assemblywoman Hazel Gluck was gay, but came out of the closet 30 years after she had departed the Assembly.)

Davis and Cruz are the leading possibilities for now, though others may join them as the race takes shape. The choice will ultimately come down to Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia and Essex Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones Jr., who also serves as state Democratic chairman.

The district’s third seat is set to be represented by Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley), whose hometown was moved into the 34th district from the 28th; party leaders have indicated that they have no intention of dislodging the 81-year-old incumbent.

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