TRENTON – New Jersey’s legislative district boundaries for the election of 2023 and beyond were approved Friday, a compromise map that pushes four veteran Democratic senators from North Jersey into two districts.

The map continues to favor Democrats, as it has since 2001 and is to be expected given the party's voter registration advantage, though there are enough competitive districts that Republicans could capture the Legislature in a wave election. The number of districts with a non-white majority increases, which in part leads to the prospective primaries between incumbents.

The 33rd District in Hudson County now includes North Bergen, where Sen. Nicholas Sacco has been mayor since 1991 and senator since 1994, and Union City, where Sen. Brian Stack has been mayor since 2000 and senator since 2008.

The 27th District in Essex County that has been represented since 1982 by Sen. Richard Codey, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1973 and served as governor from 2004 to 2006, now also includes Montclair, the home of Sen. Nia Gill, a senator since 2002.

LeRoy Jones Jr., the chairman of the commission’s Democratic delegation the Democratic State Committee, said it builds on the Democratic maps adopted in 2001 and 2011. He called it “the best possible outcome for Democrats under these circumstances.”

“Many of our commissioners and party leaders were left with very, very difficult choices, which include some very longtime and very well-respected Democratic state senators who now find themselves in the same district and others who are of our Democratic Party, legislators who find themselves in very tough races,” Jones said.

Al Barlas, the chairman of the commission’s Republican delegation, said it’s a map residents can be proud of.

“This process has been tough. It’s been hard. It’s been long,” said Barlas, the Essex County GOP chairman. “We all gave a little. We all went through a lot to get to this final product.”

The commission’s 11th member, retired judge Philip Carchman, said the map was drawn with the next decade in mind, not just the 2023 election.

“There are people who are complaining about this piece of the map, that piece of the map,” Carchman said. “And the question always comes up: Is the map perfect? And the answer is very simple: No, it is not perfect. It will never be perfect because there is no perfect map to be found anywhere.”

Carchman noted it’s the first time New Jersey has a bipartisan consensus map since the redistricting commission was established ahead of the 1970 census.

“A bipartisan map. Think about that in this day and age of politics, what it takes to achieve a bipartisan map,” Carchman said.

The Apportionment Commission approved the new boundaries in a 9-2 vote, with Carchman, four Democrats and four Republicans in favor. Republican former Sen. Tom Kean Jr. voted no, as did Cosmo Ciirillo, a Democrat on the town commission in West New York – which is in the Sacco/Stack 33rd District.

The map includes one majority Black district and one Black influence district, two majority Hispanic districts and three Hispanic influence districts and 10 other majority-minority districts.

“These are record numbers,” Barlas said. “These are historic things that we accomplishing here today, based solely on the fact that our state is diverse. And we all acknowledged it. Nobody shied away from what we had to do. The obligation that was before us was to ensure that we produce a product that is representative of who we all are.”

“This map will provide so many opportunities for increased minority representation in Camden, in Hudson, in Essex counties, while maintaining or improving on the goals with competitive districts around the state that we will defend aggressively and with all alacrity,” Jones said.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, announced he will seek the Senate in the redrawn 32nd District, which includes Hoboken and part of Jersey City. That's the open seat created by putting Stack and Sacco into the same district.

The Fair Districts New Jersey coalition, which advocated for a map that included 20 majority-minority districts, criticized the newly certified map.

"Communities of color remain an afterthought despite tremendous population growth in the last 10 years," said the coalition, noting that nearly 50% of the state's population was nonwhite in the 2020 Census.

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Republican Party state chairman Bob Hugin said the map includes "a number of highly competitive, offensive pickup opportunities."

"It will take great candidates, strong campaigns and a lot of hard work, but let me be crystal clear: This map puts a Republican majority in the state Legislature within reach, and that is what the NJGOP will be fighting tooth and nail for," Hugin said.

Democrats currently hold majorities of 24-16 in the Senate and 46-34 in the Assembly. Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said the new map "preserves every Democratic district and allows opportunities to expand our majority."

The map will be used for the elections in 2023 through at least 2029. It could still be in effect in 2031, depending on how early the state gets detailed results from the 2030 Census.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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