NJ candidate would be 1st openly transgender Republican legislator
TRENTON — Jennifer Williams, a lifelong Trenton resident, is running unopposed for the Republican nomination for the state Assembly in the 15th legislative district.
If Williams were to be elected in November, she would be the first Republican to hold a seat in her district in 28 years — and seemingly the first openly transgender Republican legislator in the country.
Incumbent Democrats Anthony Verrelli and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson also are on the ballot for next week's primary election on Tuesday, June 4, alongside Democrat Alex Bethea, who lost the district's special election last November by a wide margin.
Verrelli and Reynolds-Jackson were appointed to their seats after last fall's special election, following the resignations of Democrats Reed Gusciora, now mayor of Trenton, and Elizabeth Maher Muoio, now state treasurer.
Williams was the first openly transgender delegate to attend a Republican National Convention, as an honorary 2016 delegate in Cleveland.
She said while the issue of gender and her campaign's potential milestone certainly are attention grabbers, she remains most focused on helping re-establish New Jersey's fiscal safety net, as the state is on the "precipice of financial failure."
Williams also said the problems facing NJ are decades old, and that the risk of "insolvency is bigger than any governor."
She is a member of the Trenton Zoning Board of Adjustment, and chair of the Trenton Republican Committee. She worked for Bob Hugin's U.S. Senate campaign last year, in which he was defeated by incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. Williams has the endorsements of Hugin along with five fellow municipal chairs in Mercer County — Hopewell's Todd Brant, Lawrence's Robert Pluta, Pennington's Eva Kaplan, West Windsor's Alok Sharma and Ewing's Jeremy Whaley.
Chelsea Hill, of the Center for American Women and Politics at the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics, said on Wednesday to the institute's knowledge, "there haven't been any openly transgender Republican women elected to state legislatures."
Republican Althea Garrison was elected in 1992 to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was outed against her wishes as transgender after the Boston Herald secured a birth certificate, as reported by the Boston Globe. She served one term.
In 2017 in Virginia, Danica Roem, a Democrat, became the first openly transgender person to be elected and to serve in a state legislature in the U.S., according to multiple news outlets and institutions, including the University of Virginia School of Law.
More from New Jersey 101.5: