Marriage Equality and 2011 State Senate Primaries

While no lawmaker has ever lost an election for voting for marriage equality, some New Jersey Senators could find themselves out of office if they vote against it.

John Girgenti, who represents the Paterson-based 35th district, voted no at yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing. Girgenti, who lives in suburban Hawthorne, may not even live in the district come 2011, especially if population trends allow for the creation of a majority-Hispanic district. If the map-drawers don’t remove him from office, then a primary challenge in this plurality Hispanic district might. Assemblywoman Nellie Pou, a Latina, is reportedly interested in moving up to the Senate, and Blue Jersey’s own Jeff Gardner has also been mentioned as a potential challenger.

In the 15th district, Shirley Turner is rumored to be on the fence and considering voting against the bill for “political” reasons. What these reasons could be is beyond me. The 15th is arguably the most progressive district in the state. In 2008, Barack Obama won here with 76% of the vote—only in the Newark-based 28th and 29th did he do better. Earlier this year, the PCDO considered a resolution on marriage equality at one of its monthly meetings. Of the dozens of people in attendance, only one or two voted against the resolution. Turner, who has already annoyed organized labor with her opposition to paid family leave in 2008, can ill afford to alienate another important Democratic constituency. Bonnie Watson Coleman, who supported paid family leave and is a cosponsor of the marraige equality bill, would stand an excellent chance to beat Turner at a county conventon. Watson Coleman may be interested in moving up now that her bid for Assembly Speaker has fallen short.

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