Few issues have impacted local elections across New Jersey suburbs over the last 46 years than what’s referred to as Mount Laurel, a controversial 1975 New Jersey Supreme Court decision mandating municipalities to offer prospects for affordable housing.
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Mount Laurel, where Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Mount Laurel Township originated, today inaugurated their first Black mayor in their 150-year history with Kareem Pritchett taking the oath of office.
“Today, in Mount Laurel, we begin the new year with immense optimism and hope, as Kareem Pritchett becomes Mayor of this great community. It is also a historic day that touches close to my heart,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who swore the new mayor in. “Kareem Pritchett, a son of Newark, is the first black mayor in the township’s 150-year history. Kareem’s love for his neighbors led him to the path of public service and today that journey continues with extraordinary promise and opportunity for his community.”
Pritchett replaced Stephen Steglik, who served as mayor in 2021 under the township’s rotation system. Steglik will serve as deputy mayor.
Mount Laurel was a longtime Republican stronghold until Democrats Steglik and Pritchett were elected in 2018. Last year, Democrats swept the other three council seats, giving them their first majority in 36 years.
Local Republicans worried about running on the ballot with President Donald Trump in 2020, attempted to move Mount Laurel’s local elections to May and make those races non-partisan. That measure would have ended up on the ballot had Assembly Deputy Majority Leader Carol Murphy (D-Mounty Laurel) not intervened. The ordinance was to go into effect 20 days after it was passed. Before that time elapsed, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill backed by the assemblywoman that would require a supermajority — that’s four votes in Mount Laurel — to change a local form of government.
“I’ve had the honor to know Kareem for many years prior to his election to township council, and he has always been a dedicated public servant through his service as a member of law enforcement and his training of other officers to protect our public safety,” said Murphy, who swore in Steglik. “We are in great hands moving forward, and I couldn’t be more proud of Stephen Steglik, who led our community with boundless energy during the past year.”
Steglik and Pritchett are up for re-election in November 2022. Murphy won 57.5% of the vote in Mount Laurel in 2021.