Home>Highlight>Kearny mayor wants a say in 31st district delegation

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, center, with his Town Council running mates, incumbents Marytrine Castro, Richard Konopka, Carol Jean Doyle and Gerald Ficeto. (Photo: Kearny Democrats.)

Kearny mayor wants a say in 31st district delegation

Santos expresses disappointment with lack of transparency in redistricting process

By Joey Fox, February 23 2022 5:25 pm

Since New Jersey’s 40-district system was established in 1973, the 31st legislative district has had a straightforward arrangement: with about most of the district’s population in Jersey City and the remainder in Bayonne, the former usually gets two seats in the legislature and the latter gets one.

But redistricting this year added a rogue element. Because of Hudson County’s huge population growth, the 32nd and 33rd districts to the north had to shrink, and Kearny, the largest town in West Hudson, was shifted into the 31st district.

That means that, for the first time in history, Democratic leaders in Jersey City and Bayonne won’t be able to decide things purely among themselves. And while Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos won’t commit to fighting to send a Kearny politician to Trenton right away, he said that he expects a seat at the legislative table.

“My preferred route would be if the three mayors and Senator [Sandra] Cunningham sat together and reviewed how we think the district would be best represented,” Santos said. “I don’t know if that means one from each municipality, or two from Jersey City. It has to be democratic, and you have to look at the number of residents.”

Jersey City makes up just over half of the new district, while Bayonne is 30% and Kearny is 18%.

Currently joining Cunningham in Trenton are Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), who was first elected in 2015, and Assemblyman William Sampson (D-Bayonne), who was unexpectedly chosen for the Democratic nomination last year after Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis soured on now-former Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne).

That leaves a plurality-Hispanic district without any Hispanic representation, something which the Venezuelan-born Santos and his plurality-Hispanic hometown may decide is unreasonable, though Santos himself did not mention race in his discussion of the 31st district’s delegation.

What Santos did emphasize, however, was his strong disapproval of the new map overall, which separates Harrison and East Newark from Kearny (putting them into an Essex County-based district) and which double-bunks State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) with Brian Stack (D-Union City) in the 33rd district.

“I don’t think [the redistricting commission] was transparent,” Santos said. “They worked behind closed doors, and I don’t think that’s good for the process. And the result of that was what we see now in Hudson County, splitting up West Hudson … and causing two incumbents to be in the same district.”

Mathematically, Hudson County’s growth and the insistence from Jersey City politicians that the city not be split three ways meant that there had to be major changes to the existing map in some places. But while Santos may be frustrated West Hudson has lost its cohesion, the new map means he may have a powerful voice in an all-new district.

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