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State Sen. Andrew Zwicker at Gov. Phil Murphy's 2023 State of the State Address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Zwicker says process to determine Jaffer’s successor is underway

Jaffer indicates she’d prefer a female candidate to take her seat

By Joey Fox, January 19 2023 4:16 pm

With first-term Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D-Montgomery) unexpectedly retiring from the legislature, Central Jersey Democrats are still sorting out her replacement on the 16th district ticket in this year’s election.

The leader of that ticket, State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), said today that there will be a meeting next week to talk with potential Democratic candidates and begin determining who would be the best fit for the district.

“We’ve had a group of people that have expressed interest,” Zwicker said. “We’re going to set up a screening meeting next week to meet them all and start to talk through that. We’re hoping to come to some sense of a conclusion as quickly as possible.”

Asked whether there was anything in particular he was seeking in a candidate, Zwicker said that he’s “looking for the best possible candidate, period.”

Jaffer, meanwhile, said that she doesn’t have any specific thoughts on who her successor should be, though she implied that it should be a woman – an opinion that seems to be shared by many Democrats across the district.

“A lot of people have been talking about how it would be really great to have a woman,” Jaffer said. “We do need more representation of women. There’s a lot of great options out there, and I wish everyone the best of luck, because it can be a grueling process.”

While the 16th district leans towards Democrats, it’s not overwhelmingly blue, and Republicans are likely to target it in this year’s elections – raising the stakes for choosing a new Democratic candidate. When Zwicker flipped the Senate seat in 2021, it was the first time Democrats fully controlled the district since the modern 40-district system was implemented in the 1970s.

Jaffer, who was narrowly elected to Zwicker’s former Assembly seat that same year, is one of the first three Asian American women to ever serve in the legislature. Given that the 16th district is more than one-quarter Asian, that could also be an important factor in figuring out who the Democratic nominee will be.

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