Much of the post-Census political discussion has thus far focused on the state legislative incumbents who suddenly found themselves removed from their traditional voting blocs thanks to redistricting.
But just as redistricting produced losers, so, too, did it produce winners: the candidates who now find themselves on viable slates with backing from party bosses.
In the 2011 redistricting sweepstakes, Jersey City school board member Sean Connors is one of the winners.
After days of rumors, Connors officially launched his candidacy for the 33rd Legislative District Tuesday at a kickoff event at Rita and Joes.
The Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) tapped Connors to run on a ticket that includes State Sen. Brian Stack and Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, both of whom are running for reelection in the 33rd District. Besides a portion of Jersey City, the district includes Hoboken, Weehawken, and Union City.
Four council members have said they won’t support the budget unless cuts to the library are restored.
Connors is joining incumbent Assemblyman Ruben Ramos of Hoboken in getting the HCDO’s support in the Democratic primary this June. They both face a challenge from Hoboken Councilman Ravi Bhalla, who did not get HCDO support and is running with the support of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Voters can pick any two of the three Assembly candidates for two seats representing their district.
Connors and fellow Democrat Angelica Jimenez, who will run for the Assembly in the 32nd District, are part of the party’s efforts to get more Latinos and young representatives elected to the state legislature.
‘If I’m elected’
Currently in the second year of his first term on the school board, Connors said in an interview last week that his working class values will appeal to voters in Jersey City who are struggling to keep pace with falling wages, service cuts, and rising costs.
“The funding and service reductions that have taken place on the state level have had a devastating effect on working people, especially in Jersey City,” Connors said. “If you look at education, for example, our school system was reduced by 5 percent last year. This amounts to reductions in classroom programs and employment reductions. We lost 373 employees at the end of the year, although we were able to bring some of those people back [due to retirements]. But any reduction that we get in Trenton affects local municipal economies in the state, including in the 33rd District.”
Similar state cuts to Jersey City, he noted, led to other service reductions throughout the city.
“We all know money is very hard to come by right now. And fiscal responsibility needs to be encouraged at all levels of government. But I think some of these cuts need to be defended in the legislature, which is what I plan to do if I’m elected,” said Connors. “I don’t see where [Gov. Christopher Christie’s] reduction plan is helping. Of all the cities in Hudson County, these reductions have hit Jersey City the hardest.”
Despite his criticism of Christie, and living in a heavily Democratic county, Connors said he will be able to work with the governor’s administration and other Republicans in Trenton.
“From my background in law enforcement I’d say you always have to balance things,” he noted. “You always have to make sure that what you’re doing is right for the victim, right for what the state requires for the prosecution of the case. At the same time, you can’t be so interested in a certain outcome that you cut corners or do the wrong thing. I think it’s the same way in politics. You have to listen to all sides. You have to be willing to walk that fine line between doing the right thing for your constituents and going overboard.”
He said he’d be open to working with any Republicans if their proposals would benefit Jersey City or the 33rd District.
Connors, who ran unsuccessfully for the State Senate in 2007, acknowledged that he’s still a bit of a political newcomer to politics, and admitted he’ll need to learn a lot from Ramos, Sen. Stack, and other more senior legislators if he goes to Trenton.
And although the party has been interested in grooming him for higher office in the past, he’s well aware that he’s getting a shot at the Assembly this year largely thanks to redistricting and the displacements of Quigley and Rodriguez.
“Joan Quigley has to be thanked for her extraordinary years of service,” said Connors. “I’ve already told her that if I win she’ll need to keep her phone on, ‘cause I’m sure I’ll have a lot of questions – and I’ll be calling her.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.