The 34th District includes four communities in Essex and Passaic counties: Clifton, East Orange, Montclair, and Orange.
Democrats account for more than half of all registered voters. About 9 percent are Republican; most of the rest have no party affiliation.
The party in power has a contested primary. Both Democratic Assembly members — Britnee Timberlake of East Orange and Thomas Giblin, a labor union officer who lives in Montclair — are seeking re-election. A third candidate is Simone J. Jelks-Bandison of East Orange.
For the Republicans, the candidates are Bharat T. Rana and Irene Devita, both Clifton residents.
CANDIDATES IN CONTESTED PRIMARY
NJ Spotlight asked all candidates in contested races to fill out a brief survey about themselves and why they are running. These are the responses we received from 34th District candidates.
Hometown: East Orange
Occupation: Aside from being a hands-on mother and NJ State Assemblywoman, I serve as the manager of Housing and Community Development for the City of East Orange. In 2011 (prior to public office), I founded the Essex Community Land Trust, an organization with the mission to strengthen communities by providing permanently affordable housing and financial empowerment opportunities for working families and individuals throughout Essex County.
Family: I am the daughter of a retired Army 82nd Airborne Sergeant 1st Class Jumpmaster turned public school teacher (my father) and a former educator of the mentally and physically challenged (my mother). My family is blended and on the go. Instilled with the same dedication to serve others that I possess, my life partner is a Newark firefighter. I was sworn into office with him by my side while nine months pregnant with our first son who is one of three. Never taking the people who elected me for granted, just a few weeks after giving birth, I went back to work at the Assembly with my son across my chest.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Religious Studies, Seton Hall University; Master’s in Public Administration, Seton Hall University.
Why are you running for the Assembly? I am running to be re-elected to the New Jersey General Assembly to continue doing the work of the people and writing progressive laws that create solutions to long-time community concerns. I want to continue to make a difference in our state by improving the quality of life for ALL residents.
In just one year into my first term, I have been successful getting several laws passed and resources restored. My first bill signed into law requires an independent investigation occur in the event a person dies during interaction with or while in custody of law enforcement. I was a prime sponsor of the $15-an-hour minimum wage increase . During budget seasons, I worked to ensure that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is fully funded so that subsidies are available to developers to include affordability in their projects and prevent displacement. In 2018, we secured $15 million for the HTF, and this year, the trust fund is expected to be fully funded at about $50 million.
What are your three top priorities if elected? If re-elected, I will continue to focus on doing the work of the people with my Assembly colleague also seeking re-election, Thomas P. Giblin, who also has a long history of putting people first.
The bills I write create equity paired with equality. Some of my top priorities include creating housing affordability while promoting development, expanding environmental health, and more. My top three priorities are:
Pass “Timberlake’s Community Wealth Preservation Program,” which will make the foreclosure sale process equitable for community members and those trying to save their homes and wealth from being lost to outside investors.
Pass an inclusionary zoning bill to expand access to workforce housing throughout NJ for everyday, working-class families.
Continue addressing environmental issues such as lead and other contaminants in New Jersey’s aging housing and infrastructure through funding for abatement.
What makes you the best candidate? Assemblyman Giblin and I are the best candidates for the Assembly because we are transparent, accessible, and each have a record providing long-lasting, tangible, life-changing legislative solutions that have and will positively impact the communities we represent for years to come.
Hometown: Montclair, NJ
Occupation: Labor union officer, Local 68 Operating Engineers
Family: Married, father of five grown children, grandfather of 11
Education: B.A. Seton Hall University (political science); Seton Hall and Rutgers University post-graduate studies
Email/phone: AsmGiblin@njleg.org/(973) 779-3125
Why are you running for the Assembly? I would like to continue to use my legislative experience and business background to continue developing legislation and programs that will benefit the citizens of New Jersey. I am fortunate in that I am able to devote the time required to be an effective legislator. There is much more to be done to make New Jersey better and I would like to be a part of making that happen.
What are your three top priorities if elected? Continue the improvement of our education system including the expansion of job-training programs; continue to protect our environment in a cost-effective manner; continue to protect and provide resources for our mentally challenged population.
What makes you the best candidate? My experience as an elected official, on many levels, and labor advocate has allowed me to travel throughout this state and develop first-hand knowledge regarding the pressing needs and concerns of our citizenry. My labor experience provides me with knowledge of the needs and challenges facing the middle class and blue-collar workers. After six terms in New Jersey’s state Assembly, I have developed relationships on both sides of the aisle that have proven beneficial in “getting things done.”
Hometown: I was born in Pittsburgh, PA, raised in Weehawken, now live in East Orange
Occupation: Substitute teacher
Family: Engaged; two children; my daughter is five and my son is eight
Education: George Mason University, BSW and a minor in Fine Arts, CMA, MA, EKG, PCT, Phlebotomy
Email/phone: SimoneJBandison4You@gmail.com/(973) 866-5187
Why are you running for the Assembly? I’m running because I set out to become the change I sought. I decided that the needs of the people need to be a priority. People before politics, people before profits, and we need to put our communities first.
What are your three top priorities?
Continue to support the Economic Development Authority investigation;
Work on restoring the funds due to the NJ pension system;
I would sponsor or co-sponsor legislation that would include the public school system to receive funding from tax-exemption PILOT funds.
What makes you the best candidate? What makes me the best candidate is that my interest in the position is genuine. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have the determination and the perseverance to see issues through. I don’t look at political parties as boundaries and will work hard to help to continue to move New Jersey forward. I will fight for the rights and civil liberties of all constituents to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to prosper and continue to be proud to call New Jersey home.