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Stories about New Jersey

Delaware, Maine, New Jersey end face-covering requirements

Three states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between May 21 and May 28.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) ended the statewide indoor mask requirement May 24. Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said businesses could require people to show proof of vaccination, but “the state of Maine is not going to enforce this idea of different policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, nor do we expect businesses to do so.” The state recommended unvaccinated people continue masking in indoor public spaces. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still had to wear masks in schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) lifted the state’s indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated people on May 28. Masks will still be required in state offices open to the public, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings. The six-foot social distancing requirement ended on the same day. Dance floors and standing service at bars and restaurants will also be permitted.

Delaware Gov. Jay Carney (D) signed an order on May 18 ending the statewide mask requirement, effective May 21. Carney said masks were still required in state offices open to the public, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings. The order also strongly encouraged unvaccinated individuals to continue wearing masks in indoor businesses and public settings in compliance with CDC guidelines at the time.

Additionally, Hawaii lifted its outdoor mask requirements and New York lifted mask requirements for children ages two through five. Washington amended its existing mask orders to align with the CDC guidance issued May 13, exempting fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements. 

Thirty-nine states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Seventeen states had statewide mask orders as of May 28, including 13 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and four out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of the 22 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 12 have Republican governors, and ten have Democratic governors. Nineteen states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



Incumbents win reelection in Newark Public Schools election

Incumbents Dawn Haynes, Asia Norton, Vereliz Santana and Daniel Gonzalez won in the Newark, New Jersey school board election on April 20, 2021. Haynes, Norton, and Santana, all incumbents, defeated challengers Nadirah Brown, Yolanda Johnson, and Philip Wilson in the regular election with 29.9%, 28.2%, and 27.1% of the vote, respectively, and will serve three-year terms on the board. No other candidate received over 6%.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, won a special election for an open fourth seat against Sheila Montague, 65.6% to 34.4%. The special election was called after board member Tave Padilla died on November 25, 2020. On January 28, 2021, the board appointed Santana to fill Padilla’s seat until the April election. Padilla took office in 2016 and won reelection to another three-year term on April 16, 2019. Gonzalez will serve the remainder of the term, which will end after the next election in 2022.

Haynes, Santana, Norton, and Gonzalez ran on the Moving Newark Schools Forward ticket, a candidate slate backed by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. Haynes and Norton previously ran on the slate in 2018 when they were both first elected to the board.

Newark Public Schools is overseen by a nine-member board, all of whom are elected at large to three-year terms. All registered voters can vote for seats on the ballot in an at-large election as opposed to a by district election, in which only the registered voters of a particular geographic area may vote for a particular seat up for election.

The district was the largest school district in the state in the 2019-2020 school year and served 36,676 students. From 1995 to 2017, the New Jersey state government oversaw the school district. Local control was returned to the district on September 13, 2017.

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DeAnne DeFuccio sworn in to New Jersey General Assembly District 39

DeAnne DeFuccio (R) was sworn in on April 9 to a seat in the New Jersey Assembly, representing the 39th District. DeFuccio won the special election held at the Bergen County Republican Organization on March 31 by a vote of 88-81 over John Azzaritti. 

DeFuccio will serve the remainder of Holly Schepisi’s (R) term, which was set to expire in January 2022. Schepisi vacated the seat after she was selected to represent the 39th Senate District following Gerald Cardinale’d (R) death.

DeFuccio has served on the borough council of Upper Saddle River since March 2020. Previously, she worked as an attorney.

The Republican primary for the 39th Assembly District will take place on June 8, and DeFuccio has filed to run for re-election. Azzaritti, John Glidden, and Jonathan Kurpis will challenge incumbents DeFuccio and Robert Auth (R) in the primary.

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Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey disqualified from ballot; Gov. Murphy the lone remaining candidate

On April 13, Lisa McCormick and Roger Bacon were disqualified from the Democratic primary ballot for New Jersey governor. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is the only remaining candidate on the ballot.

Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Rabin disqualified McCormick, ruling that none of the 1,951 petition signatures she submitted were valid. The New Jersey Democratic Party had challenged her petition, alleging that it included signatures from voters who said they did not sign the petition along with the signatures of two dead individuals.

Administrative Law Judge JoAnn LaSala Candido disqualified Bacon, ruling that he did not submit the minimum of 1,000 signatures necessary to qualify. Of the signatures Bacon submitted, 281 of them came from registered Republicans.

On the Republican side of the race, four candidates are running for their party’s nomination: Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Philip Rizzo, and Hirsh Singh.

As of April 6, 2021, two of the three major race rating outlets rated the general election as Solid Democratic and the third rated it as Likely Democratic, but Republicans have had success in the state’s gubernatorial races in the recent past. Between 1992 and 2021, Republicans held the governorship for 16 years and Democrats held the governorship for 14 years. The last Democratic governor to win a re-election campaign was Brendan Byrne in 1977. Since then, two sitting Democratic governors, Jim Florio (1993) and Jon Corzine (2009), lost re-election bids to Republican challengers.

New Jersey and Virginia will hold gubernatorial elections in 2021. Democrats currently hold both positions, but Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is prevented from running for re-election by term limits. Since both offices were last up for election in 2017, 10 governors’ offices have changed party hands. Eight of those changes were from Republicans to Democrats, one was from Democrat to Republican, and one was from independent to Republican.



Four Republicans file to run in New Jersey gubernatorial primary, Gov. Murphy draws one primary challenger

Four Republican candidates filed to run for governor of New Jersey ahead of the April 5 filing deadline. Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Philip Rizzo, and Hirsh Singh will compete in the June 8 primary election for their party’s nomination. The general election will take place on Nov. 2.

Ciattarelli and Singh both ran for governor in 2017. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee, received 47% of the vote in the Republican primary. Ciattarelli received 31% and Singh received 10% of the vote.

Governor Phil Murphy (D) faces challenger Roger Bacon in the Democratic primary. Murphy won a six-way Democratic primary with 48% of the vote in 2017. This is Bacon’s second run for governor. In 2009, he ran in a four-way primary against then-Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and received 6% of the vote.

New Jersey is currently a Democratic trifecta, with a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. New Jersey was last under divided government in 2017, when Democrats controlled the legislature and Chris Christie (R) was governor.

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New Jersey Governor announces nomination of state supreme court justice

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) announced on March 15 that he would nominate Rachel Wainer Apter to the New Jersey Supreme Court. She will replace Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who is retiring on Aug. 31.

Wainer Apter has served as a director with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, a counsel to the New Jersey Attorney General, and an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. From 2011 to 2012, Wainer Apter was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and has also clerked for federal judges Robert Katzmann and Jed Rakoff.

State law requires supreme court nominees to pass the “advice and consent” of the state Senate one week after the governor issues a public notice of the nomination. 

This is Gov. Murphy’s second nominee to the seven-member supreme court. The court will switch from a 4-3 majority of justices appointed by Republican governors to a 4-3 majority of justices appointed by Democratic governors. According to state law, the New Jersey governor may appoint justices to have up to a one-seat partisan advantage on the court, but he or she may go no further than that.

Twenty-six state supreme courts have Republican majorities, 16 have Democratic majorities, and eight have split or indeterminate majorities.

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New Jersey Supreme Court justice schedules retirement

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia scheduled her retirement for August 31, 2021. LaVecchia’s replacement will be Governor Phil Murphy’s (D) second nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under New Jersey law, when a vacancy occurs, justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court are nominated by the governor. One week after the public notice is issued by the governor, the nominees must be confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate. Newly appointed judges serve for seven years, after which they may be reappointed to serve until age 70, the mandatory retirement age.

Justice LaVecchia joined the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2000. She was appointed to the court by Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R).

Before serving on the state supreme court, LaVecchia served as the New Jersey Commissioner of Banking and Insurance from August 24, 1998, until the time of her judicial appointment. She served as a Law Division Director with the Department of Law and Public Safety from 1994 to 1998. She served as a director and as a chief administrative law judge for the Office of Administrative Law from 1989 to 1994. She also served as an assistant counsel and as a deputy chief counsel with the Office of Counsel to Gov. Thomas Kean (R).

Following LaVecchia’s retirement, the New Jersey Supreme Court will include the following members:

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in 2007

Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2020

Justice Barry Albin, appointed by Gov. James McGreevey (D) in 2002

Justice Anne Patterson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2010

Justice Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2013

Justice Lee A. Solomon, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2014

In 2021, there have been nine supreme court vacancies in eight of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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Changes to ballot access procedures in the 2021 election cycle

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the two states conducting regular state-level elections in 2021—New Jersey and Virginia—have both made temporary modifications to their candidate ballot access procedures.

Ballot access procedures dictate whether a candidate or political party will appear on an election ballot. These laws are implemented and enforced at the state level. A candidate must prepare to meet ballot access requirements well in advance of primaries, caucuses, and the general election.

New Jersey: On January 25, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy (D) issued Executive Order No. 216, which provided that filing officers “allow for any candidate, delegate, recall, initiative, referendum, or other petition required to be filed prior to an election to be submitted by hand delivery and electronically.” The order also allows for petition signatures to be collected electronically.

Virginia: In January 2021, the Virginia Department of Elections settled a lawsuit over ballot access requirements for statewide candidates in 2021. As a result of the settlement, the signature requirement for statewide petitions was reduced from 10,000 to 2,000, with at least 50 signatures from each U.S. House District (as opposed to the statutory requirement of 400 signatures per district). The settlement also provided for petition signers to submit their signatures electronically.

Ballot access changes in 2020: In 2020, at least 20 states made temporary modifications to their ballot access procedures: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

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Breaking down partisanship on the New Jersey Supreme Court

A recent Ballotpedia study on state supreme courts revealed that of the seven justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court as of June 2020:

  1. Two justices had some level of affiliation with the Democratic party
  2. Four justices had a Republican affiliation
  3. One justice had an indeterminate partisan affiliation.

In “Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship”, we gathered a variety of data on 341 active state supreme court justices across the 50 states in order to understand their partisan affiliations. Based on this research, we placed each justice into one of five categories indicating our confidence in their affiliations with either the Democratic or Republican Parties. These categories are:

  1. Strong Democratic
  2. Mild Democratic
  3. Indeterminate
  4. Mild Republican
  5. Strong Republican

Our confidence measure shows that in 2020, there were two Mild Democrats on the New Jersey Supreme Court (Justices Stuart Rabner and Barry Albin), four Mild Republicans (Justices Lee Solomon, Anne Patterson, Jaynee LaVecchia, and Faustino Fernandez-Vina), and one Indeterminate justice (Justice Timpone). Justice Timpone retired on August 31, 2020, 10 weeks before his mandatory retirement date of November 10, to allow his replacement, Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, to join the bench for the September court session. As our study concluded in June 2020, we did not include Justice Pierre-Louis in our research.

New Jersey has informal, but no constitutional rules which mandate a partisan balance on the state supreme court. The National Center for State Courts describes New Jersey’s informal process of ensuring partisan balance on its state supreme court as follows:

“New Jersey’s courts also have a tradition of political balance. Governors, regardless of their party affiliation, have generally followed a policy of replacing outgoing judges with someone of the same party or philosophy. On the supreme court, the traditional balance is three Democrats and three Republicans, with the chief justice belonging to the party of the appointing governor.”

The state of New Jersey has two rules governing judicial appointments: one written, one unwritten. The written law requires that justices are subject to reappointment by the governor and reconfirmation by the legislature after an initial seven-year term. The unwritten rule is that the governor of the state of New Jersey is to appoint justices in a way that alternates the party of the justice each time he receives the opportunity to appoint a new justice to the court to ensure partisan balance on the court.

While John Corzine (D) was governor of New Jersey, he appointed two justices to the court, Helen Hoens and Stuart Rabner. One of his nominees, Stuart Rabner, was Gov. Corzine’s chief legal counsel and the attorney general for the state of New Jersey. Gov. Corzine also reappointed two Republican-leaning justices nominated to the bench by Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) and one Democratic-leaning justice appointed to the bench by Governor James McGreevey (D).

Governor Chris Christie (R) broke the precedent in attempting to appoint another Republican-leaning justice to the state supreme court without first reappointing Justice Rabner. Gov. Christie also did not reappoint Helen Hoens, who was first appointed by Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and stated that he did so because he knew the Senate would reject her nomination. Justice Hoens is only the second justice in the history of New Jersey to sit on the court and not receive renomination after her second term. The only previous justice not to receive renomination was Justice John E. Wallace, a Gov. James McGreevey (D) appointment who Gov. Christie also did not renominate.

Gov. Christie’s Republican appointments recorded lower partisan Confidence Scores than the justices appointed by Whitman and Corzine. This means that, according to our data, Christie’s appointments were less partisan in their affiliations than the other New Jersey governors with appointments to the court. Christie’s appointments record an average Pure Partisan Score of 4.5. Whitman’s justices register an average Pure Partisan Score of 7. Corzine’s justices register an average Pure Partisan Score of 9. McGreevey’s justices record an average Pure Partisan Score of 7.

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New Jersey state Senator Gerald Cardinale dies

New Jersey Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R) passed away on Feb. 20, after being hospitalized with an illness unrelated to COVID-19. The second-longest-serving New Jersey legislator, Cardinale was first elected to Senate District 39 in 1981, serving until his death. Prior to joining the state Senate, Cardinale was a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 1980 to 1982.  

During his Senate tenure, Cardinale served as deputy majority leader (1994-2001), majority whip (1992-1993), assistant minority leader (1987-1989), and minority whip (1985-1986). He was also a district-level delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention from New Jersey. Cardinale was one of 51 delegates from New Jersey bound by state party rules to support Donald Trump at the convention. 

If there is a vacancy in the New Jersey Legislature, the vacancy will be filled by an interim appointment by the county leadership of the political party that holds the seat. The office will be on the ballot in the next general election unless the vacancy occurs within 51 days of the election. If that is the case, the appointment would stand until the following general election. This is not the case for Cardinale’s seat, which will be up for election in November 2021.

As of Feb. 23, there have been 27 state legislative vacancies in 20 states during 2021. Ten of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 27 vacancies, 15 are Republican and 12 are Democratic. Democrats have filled seven vacancies, while Republicans have filled three.  

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