Tenafly Mayor Mark Zinna has endorsed Shama Haider and Ellen Park for State Assembly in the 37th district, eschewing his own council president, Lauren Dayton.
Zinna, an early supporter of Gordon Johnson’s Senate bid against Valerie Huttle, faced a hometown Hobson’s choice as legislative politics split Tenafly into two different camps.
Haider is the Tenafly Democratic Municipal Chair and is a former councilwoman. Dayton is running on a slate headed by Johnson’s Senate primary opponent, Valerie Vainer Huttle.
“Johnson, Park and Haider have dedicated their lives to public service. It is important to elect candidates whose experiences directly reflect the lives of the people they represent,” Zinna said. “We can’t just talk about diversity and inclusion; we have to act to make it happen.”
Zinna has plenty of cover backing the candidates endorsed by the Bergen County Demcoratic organization, including Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano.
He called the slate “the most diverse and effective team ever seen in the 37th District” Zinna said.
No Muslim has ever served in the New Jersey Legislature, something Haider, who was born in Pakistan, aims to change. Park, a former Englewood Cliffs councilwoman, is seeking to become the first Asian American woman to serve in Trenton.
There will be diversity in the 37th district regardless of the outcome, since no white men have filed. The district will have either a Black or a woman in the Senate, and two women in the Assembly.
Zinna first won statewide notice when he sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2017. He has subsequently become a political ally and friend of Murphy.