The 20th District covers four communities in Union County: Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle, and Union.
This is one of a handful of districts in which Democrats are actually in the majority, outnumbering even unaffiliated voters. Almost 55 percent of those registered are Democrats and just 8 percent are Republicans.
Democrats control the district seats; the incumbents face one challenger. Democratic Assembly members Annette Quijano, a municipal prosecutor from Elizabeth, and Jamel Holley, the director of public works in Irvington, are both seeking re-election. Kenneth Jones of Roselle is also running.
The Republican slate includes Ashraf Hanna of Union, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2017, and Charles Donnelly of Union.
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 20th District candidates.
JAMEL CURTIS HOLLEY: DEMOCRAT
Occupation: Director of Public Works for the Township of Irvington
Family: Single; no children
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from New Jersey City University; Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Kean University
Email/phone: firstname.lastname@example.org/(908) 624-0880
Why are you running for the Assembly? I am seeking re-election for several reasons. New Jersey’s property taxes are among the highest in the nation and direly require restructuring. Our public schools need continuous funding so that children can graduate with greater opportunities to succeed. Pervasive unemployment and underemployment hurt families and drive up foreclosure rates, leaving people exiting New Jersey at a faster rate than any other state... Changes must be made with a keen focus on rebuilding communities in a way where all New Jersey residents and stakeholders can live, learn, work and play peacefully. We need continued strong leadership on the state level to make these changes happen.
What are your three top priorities if elected? My campaign plan will be based on my top four priorities which include advocating for affordable public education, pension reform, and both social and environmental justice. I believe these issues are at the forefront of concerns facing the residents of New Jersey.
What makes you the best candidate? I will continue to be committed and focused on my agenda which was designed to create solutions that will bring maximum benefits to residents of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate to deepen our reach into all communities in our state, especially into our towns where the needs are so great.
Occupation: City of Elizabeth Municipal Prosecutor
Family: Single, no children
Education: B.S., Rutgers University and J.D., Rutgers Law School
Why are you running for the Assembly? Representing the people of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union in the General Assembly is an incredible honor and I take each day as an opportunity to make a positive impact on their lives through meaningful legislation and community service.
I’ve been a progressive champion on making our economy healthy and fair. We’ve raised the minimum wage, created an earned sick-leave program, and developed a portable retirement savings plan for workers with jobs that don’t offer retirement benefits.
My signature initiative — expanding paid family leave — extends protections and doubles the amount of time for mothers to recover from giving birth and to take paid time off to bond with a new child, as well as to allow family members to take care of a sick relative without losing their job.
But that’s not all I’ve been working on. Since last year, all four towns in our district received increased school funding. We’ve made major investments in our community colleges and our students.
I visited Union County College and met many students who are now studying under the new free community college program we recently enacted. These are bright young people who will now have the opportunity to get a college education and enter the workforce with the tools needed to excel in our increasingly specialized economy. Two years ago, they wouldn’t have had this opportunity.
As chairwoman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, I am at the forefront of advancing social justice in this state. My committee made New Jersey a national leader by passing common-sense gun reforms that will make all of us safer. We passed legislation to ensure that when police use deadly force, it is thoroughly reviewed and investigated by the Attorney General so that there are no questions about a fair and independent judicial investigation.
At the end of the day, people here know I work hard for them. In fact, over the past 18 months 59 pieces of legislation that I sponsored, or co-sponsored, have been signed into law by the governor.
What are your three top priorities if elected? The residents of Elizabeth, Roselle, Union, and Hillside want a government that works with them to create new jobs, provide greater opportunities to receive an education for their children and themselves, and the continuation of a justice system that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, or sexual orientation.
What makes you the best candidate? Voters have trusted me to represent them for 11 years because I listen to the people in my district about what they want and then work with my colleagues to accomplish those goals.
I am proud of my progressive record of strengthening the economy for working people, improving education and advancing the arc of justice — but there is so much more we need to accomplish — and that’s why I’m asking my constituents to support me again in the primary election on June 4.
Jones did not fill out the survey, but provided a link to a, in which he discusses his candidacy.