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Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

The 27th legislative district looks set to become plurality-Black

Both parties in complete agreement on suburban Essex seat

By Joey Fox, February 07 2022 6:36 pm

Across New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts, there is at least one on which Democratic and Republican redistricting commissioners are in perfect agreement: the 27th.

The proposed 27th legislative district, which is the same in both the Democratic and Republican proposals.

Currently, the 27th district is a 60% white seat that includes a number of wealthy Essex County suburbs like Millburn, Livingston, and West Orange as well as some Morris County municipalities such as Madison, Florham Park, and Hanover. But under both parties’ proposals released today by the Legislative Apportionment Commission, the district would shed its parts of Morris County and instead shift towards Newark to incorporate Irvington and Hillside.

Such changes would mean that the district would become just 35% white and 40% Black, adding another majority-minority district in a state that is evenly divided between white and nonwhite residents.

Since both parties agree precisely on what the boundaries of the 27th district should be, it’s hard to imagine they’ll change too much between now and when the full map is finalized, so it’s possible to analyze exactly what the consequences will be for the district’s incumbents.

Fortunately for State Sen. and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-South Orange), and Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange), all three incumbents still live in the new district. But the drastic demographic shift may mean that Democrats begin to question whether majority-Black towns like Irvington and Hillside should be represented by a two-thirds white delegation. (Codey and McKeon are white, while Jasey is Black.)

More than anything else, the new map disrupts McKeon’s status path to the Senate if Codey retires. Democrats are unlikely to dump their current incumbents over the map, but if there’s an open seat in the 27th district sometime this decade, it may be hard to forge ahead with a demographically unrepresentative slate.

This story was updated at 7:24 p.m. with a correction. The 27th district is not the only district that is identical across the two proposed maps; the 19th district also remains the same on both maps.

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