Disproportionate Number of NJ Women Legislators Must Step AsideBecause of Shifted District Lines

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Five incumbent New Jersey assemblywomen – more than one fifth of the women currently serving – will not run for reelection because of the redrawn state legislative map. At the sametime, newly drawn district lines have opened doors for new women to run for the legislature inthe June 7th primary. A current assemblywoman is favored to win the only open Senate seat.And if predictions for November prove accurate, one district could elect New Jersey’s first allwomanlegislative delegation.

“In a state where 28% of the current legislature is female, women make up 70% of thelegislators who will retire from the legislature as a result of redistricting,” says Debbie Walsh,director of the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute ofPolitics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. “The impact of the new map has beenespecially harsh on incumbent Democratic assemblywomen, with one quarter of them leavingthe legislature. We’ve expanded women’s representation in the Garden State significantly inrecent years, but that progress may now be slowed.”

A record 23 women (12 D, 11 R) are seeking State Senate seats in the primaries, while 50 women(27 D, 23 R) are running for the Assembly, down from the 2007 record of 51. The record total of73 women running for the legislature is up from the previous high of 68 women primarycandidates in 2007, the last time all seats in both houses were on the ballot. (See table below.)

Women are well represented in races for open seats, the best opportunities for newcomers tojoin the legislature. In all, 11 women are running in primaries for 9 open Assembly seats in 7 ofthe state’s two-member districts. (In total, there are 13 open seats in 11 districts.)Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-35) is favored to win the only open State Senate seat, which isin a traditionally Democratic district.

Five current women lawmakers have announced their retirements, motivated by shiftingdistrict boundaries. They are Denise Coyle (R-16), Elease Evans (D-35), Joan Quigley (D-32),Caridad Rodriguez (D-33) and Joan Voss (D-38).

The newly reshaped (and likely safe for the GOP) 11th legislative district could be representedby three women, since three Republican incumbents will be on the ticket there: Senator JenniferBeck and Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande.