Three Mount Laurel councilmembers swore their oaths of office Tuesday, officially giving Democrats their first majority in 36 years.
The body’s new members, Councilwomen Karen Cohen, Fozia Janjua and Nikitas Moustakas were each sworn in by Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel), who led the transition there and may well be responsible for their win.
“It is truly an honor to be up here,” Janjua told a small crowd outside the Rowan University at Burlington County student center. “Thank you for giving me the privilege to serve my town.”
Local Republicans worried about running on the ballot with President Donald Trump in 2020 and attempted to move Mount Laurel’s local elections to May and make those races non-partisan.
That measure would’ve ended up on the ballot had Murphy 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.
The governor attended the reorganization, swearing in Mayor Stephen Steglik and Deputy Mayor Kareem Pritchett, who were each unanimously elected to their positions.
“This is a historic moment in Mount Laurel’s history,” Gov. Murphy said with a shout out to Mount Laurel Democratic Municipal Chairman Mike Muller, a storied political operative and husband to Assemblywoman Murphy.
Though the event was held in-person, most attendees watched remotely on Zoom. Rep. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown) was among those who chose to attend virtually.
Democrats in the town of about 41,000 will hold onto their majority until at least 2024, when the three councilmembers elected in November come up for re-election.
“To the people of Mount Laurel, thank you for giving us all the opportunity to serve on this council. While we are taxpayers and neighbors just like you, make no mistake,” Steglik said. “We recognize the responsibilities we willingly placed on our shoulders and will work tirelessly to raise your expectations for what leadership looks like in Mount Laurel.”