Tag Archive: Cleopatra Tucker

Bill to Decriminalize small amounts of Marijuana garners 18 co-sponsors.

22,439 people were arrested in New Jersey for possessing less than 50 grams* of cannabis in 2009.

FreedomIsGreen.Com, a local blog devoted to advancing more enlightened cannabis policy in New Jersey is reporting an an intriguing new bill on the Assembly docket that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the Garden State.

The bill, which already has 18 co-sponsors (5 from the GOP) was introduced by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris), the same bi-partisan duo that introduced the state’s nascent medical marijuana law.

Draft Rocco Mazza for State Assembly in LD36

Assemblyman Fred Scalera resigned his seat today in order to take a position in the private sector, which in and of itself is refreshing, considering the fact that many of his colleagues in the State Assembly and the State Senate hold other part-time and full-time jobs in addition to their “part-time” legislative positions, regardless of any conflicts of interest that these other jobs might create.

Scalera’s resignation creates a vacancy in the State Assembly that will be filled via a special election whereby all of the County Committeepersons in LD36 will vote.  The only name that has been floated to date as a replacement for Scalera is that of Essex County Undersheriff Kevin Ryan who is from Scalera’s hometown of Nutley.  LD36 State Senator Paul Sarlo State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) is noncommittal regarding the name of Scalera’s replacement, but believes that it should be someone from Nutley.

“That is a Nutley seat,” said Sarlo. “With the current makeup of the district, it’s a longstanding tradition to have an Essex, Passaic and Bergen representative. Essex County will have the ability to pick an interim successor.

What is interesting about Sarlo’s position is that it has been widely reported throughout the blogosphere that in his role as a member of the legislative redistricting commission, he has been working overtime to remove Nutley as well as possibly Passaic to shield himself from a general election challenge from former LD36 Assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate, Paul DiGaetano, and a primary challenge from LD36 Assemblyman Gary Schaer whose hometown of Passaic has more County Committeepersons than any other municipality in the district.

If Nutley were removed from LD36 through redistricting, different sources have theorized that it could find itself attached to LD28, LD29, LD34, or possibly even LD40. If the vacant seat goes to someone backed by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, it is very likely it would mean the end of the line for one of the incumbent Assemblypersons from Essex County.  If I had to guess, that person would most likely be Cleopatra Tucker as LD28 shifts further out of Newark and further into the adjoining suburbs.  The other possible target could be LD28 State Senator Ron Rice Sr., who has been on Steve Adubato’s hit list for some time now.

Sarlo appears to be the only South Bergen politician who believes in the Bergen/Essex/Passaic distribution of LD36 legislative, particularly as Sarlo works towards creating an all-Bergen LD36.  There is no shortage of ambitious politicians in South Bergen who may want to vy for one of the two Assembly seats that Sarlo’s manuevering could open up as well as Sarlo’s State Senate, which might explain why Sarlo would be resistent to elevating one of these would-be contenders to an Assembly seat that would enhance their ability to raise money for an Assembly re-election campaign or a primary challenge against Sarlo.

Being someone who believes in the Democratic process and does not think that this vacancy should be used to give one person an advantage over the many qualified contenders that an all-Bergen LD36 primary election would attract, I would like to advocate for the candidacy of someone who has personally expressed to me no interest whatsoever in running for this or any other LD36 office now or in the future, making him the perfect caretaker candidate, enabling the rest of the field of candidates to compete with each other next year on a level playing field.

Busy Trenton Day

While I am waiting for the Family Medical Leave hearing to begin I am gonna cruise down State Street and catch a press conference to hear what the New Jersey Women for Obama have to say.

The polls suggest that Hillary Clinton has a solid lead in New Jersey for now, but the battle goes on for another week and I reckon it’s gonna be a hard fought one until the end.  

Anyway women from both houses and from the old and new guard will be on hand to offer up their support for Obama.  And as an honorary Obama Girl I am definitely obliged to check that out!!

 Fortunately the presser is right across the street from the statehouse (at the NJDSC offices) so I won’t miss much of the Budget Committee stuff.

Randon musing: Senator Turner is rumored to vote NO on family leave in the Senate budget committee.  But she’ll be down the road at the Obama presser.   They both kick off at the same time. Not sure if there’s enough Shirley to go around, but maybe I can distract her until the vote is over?  

Stay tuned.  It all begins at 1pm.

Women in New Jersey’s Legislature (w/Poll)

When 2007 began, women held just 23 of the 120 seats in the New Jersey Legislature. That’s only 7 women in the Senate out of 40, and only 16 Assemblywomen out of 80. Of those 23 female legislators, 16 were Democrats, including 5 of the 7 Senators.

What a difference a day week year can make. Turns out, my predictions last week kinda sorta came true, with the recent unpleasantness producing two brand new Assemblywomen, Elease Evans (LD-35) and Mila Jasey (LD-27), and a very likely winner this fall added to the 38th District ballot, Connie Wagner.

Add them to primary winners earlier this year – likely future Senators Dana Redd (LD-5), Teresa Ruiz (LD-29), and Sandra Cunningham (LD-31); and likely future Assemblywomen Cleopatra Tucker (LD-28), Grace Spencer (LD-29) and Caridad Rodriguez (LD-33), and suddenly, the Legislature is starting to feel a little more estrogenated. Without a single upset in November, we’re already looking at a record 10 women in the Senate (8 of them Democrats), and a record 21 women in the Assembly (16 of them Democrats).

That’s right – there will be more Democratic women in the legislature next year than there are women total there now. Historic, yes. But, still nowhere near where we ought to be.

Of course, there’s still more story to tell, because it wouldn’t be election season if there weren’t a cool upset or two brewing. With a record number of women challenging Republicans all over the state, how many more women do you think can land in the legislature next year?

*Take the poll* on the flip (and share the reasons for your votes in the comments):

Garden State Equality’s 2007 primary endorsements

New Jersey rarely sees seriously contested primaries for the state legislature.  The June 5th Democratic primaries in Essex and Hudson counties, in which Garden State Equality presents its endorsements below, are the exception. 

Some explanation is in order on this odd political year in Essex and Hudson.  Several legislative candidates long allied with one another — candidates who previously ran together on the same column on the ballot — are running against each other in different columns.  The new alliances emanate from behind-the-scenes political wars that have little to do with issues, and much to do with turf and perceived slights.  The alliances are asking organizations like Garden State Equality to endorse their entire columns or not at all.

We at Garden State Equality reject that approach, and so should you.  We endorse the candidates best on our issues, regardless of column.  Imagine that.

Garden State Equality’s endorsements are based on the records of, and interviews with, the candidates. 

Some of our endorsed candidates are running on the local party-endorsed column.  Some of our endorsed candidates are not running on the local party-endorsed column.  If you are a Democratic voter in Essex or Hudson, or anywhere else in New Jersey for that matter, you are always free to vote for candidates across columns. 

All of Garden State Equality’s endorsed candidates meet the following criteria:  (a)  They would vote for marriage equality.  (b)  They would vote for strengthening the state’s hate crimes law, including adding hate crimes based on a victim’s gender identity or expression.  (c)  They would vote for a comprehensive syringe exchange program that will save the lives of many people with HIV/AIDS.  (d)  If the candidate currently serves in the legislature, he or she must have voted “yes” on the civil unions law — candidates who abstained or voted no would certainly not vote for marriage equality.  (e)  If the candidate currently serves in the legislature, he or she must have voted “yes” on the transgender equality law.

We remind you that in New Jersey, each legislative district is represented by one state Senator and two Assembly members.  Thus you can vote for one Senate candidate and one or two candidates for Assembly.

Note that if you live in District 27 in Essex, encompassing part of Newark and all of Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Livingston, Maplewood, North Caldwell, Orange, Roseland, South Orange, West Caldwell and West Orange, the incumbents face no primary on June 5th.  They are Senator Dick Codey, Assemblyman John McKeon and Assemblyman Mims Hackett, all splendid champions of equality whom we strongly support for reelection in November.


District 28, Essex (Part of Newark, all of Belleville, Bloomfield and Irvington):  Cleopatra Tucker for Assembly.

For the Assembly, Garden State Equality endorses Cleopatra Tucker.  She runs the Donald K. Tucker Centre in Newark, a comprehensive community center for both children and senior citizens that has done so much to lift up so many throughout the city.  The Centre is named after Cleo’s husband, the late Assemblyman Donald K. Tucker.  Cleo is an impressive grassroots activist in her own right who has the support of our allies, Mayor Cory Booker and city councilwoman Dana Rone.

Garden State Equality stops just short of an endorsement of, but confers “preferred candidate” status on, Bilal Beasley for state Senate and Ralph Caputo for Assembly.  They said they personally support marriage equality but have not made up their minds on legislation yet.  This makes them preferable to the incumbents, particularly Senator Ron Rice, who abstained on civil unions and is the state legislature’s leading opponent of syringe exchange. 

District 29, Essex/Union (Part of Newark, all of Hillside):  Teresa Ruiz for state Senate.  Wilfredo Caraballo for Assembly.  L. Grace Spencer for Assembly.

Garden State Equality’s focus in this district is the reelection of Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo.  As Speaker Pro Tem and as a professor of constitutional law at Seton Hall, Fred is an intellectual powerhouse who ranks among the most effective civil rights champions anywhere in America.  With passion, soaring oratory and a grasp of public policy second to very few, Fred has been a quarterback on a wide range of pro-LGBTI legislation.  He guided the civil unions law to passage while making clear that the law is not equality — and that the fight for real marriage equality must be won soon.  He and his staff work in close partnership with Garden State Equality.  No matter where in New Jersey you may live, if you have to donate your time or money to just one candidate this primary season, please consider Fred.  Checks are payable to “Election Fund of Wilfredo Caraballo” and should be mailed to Caraballo for Assembly, 562 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104.  Fred’s campaign office number is (973) 485-8701.  New Jersey election law requires that for donations of $300.01 and above, you provide your occupation, employer and employer’s address.

Garden State Equality debated whether to endorse Fred alone, or to also endorse one other Assembly candidate for the two Assembly seats.  In a close call, we endorse L. Grace Spencer for the other Assembly seat, an attorney who has worked with members of the LGBTI community and has an impressive grasp of the issues.  The third candidate running for the two Assembly seats is Albert Coutinho.  Though he would make a fine Assembly member, Coutinho described himself as close, but not there yet, on marriage equality.  We believe he is persuadable, but Caraballo and Spencer are there already.

Garden State Equality endorses Teresa Ruiz for state Senate, running unopposed in the primary.  Ruiz, a top aide to County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, wowed us when interviewed her.  She is formidably direct, progressive and off-the-charts charismatic.  She spoke movingly of the harm inflicted on her LGBTI friends who cannot marry.  Her experience working for the County Executive, himself a staunch ally of the LGBTI community and an absolute pleasure to work with, has been invaluable.  Ruiz will be a superstar in Trenton.

District 31, Hudson (Part of Jersey City, all of Bayonne):  Sandra Cunningham for state Senate.  Nicholas Chiaravalloti for Assembly.  L. Harvey Smith for Assembly.

Garden State Equality’s focus in this district is the election of Nicholas Chiaravalloti to the Assembly.  We leaders of the LGBTI community and other progressive communities know Nicholas well through his years of service as U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s state director.  Beyond being a smart, hardworking ally of the LGBTI community and a supporter of every LGBTI issue, Nicholas is everything Hudson County needs.  He is an accessible, progressive reformer who articulates a compelling vision of a more accountable, open government.  He would be a breath of fresh air in Trenton.

For the other Assembly seat, Garden State Equality endorses L. Harvey Smith.  As a state Senator in 2003, Smith declined to vote on the narrow domestic partnership bill whose achievement was to gave same-sex partners the right to visit one another in the hospital.  Today, Smith says he was wrong.  “I’ve come a long way,” he says, “and I believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry like everyone else.”  Voters should reward that kind of honesty and growth.

Garden State Equality endorses Sandra Bolden Cunningham for the state Senate.  Well-known to voters as the widow of former state Senator and Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham, Sandy has a rich history of her own progressive activism and has worked closely with the LGBTI community.  She is an extremely articulate voice for justice.  We support her over Lou Manzo, currently an Assembly member, in a race where both candidates support marriage equality but where she is more passionate about the issue.  Manzo said he would not be a leader on the issue.  In a district with one of the largest LGBTI communities in the state, that’s not good enough.

District 32, Hudson (Part of Jersey City, all of Harrison, Secaucus, Kearny and North Bergen):  Joan Quigley for Assembly.  Vince Prieto for Assembly.

Garden State Equality endorses Joan Quigley for reelection to the Assembly, where she is Majority Conference Leader, the third highest ranking member of the chamber.  Quigley has been a leader on every LGBTI issue over the years.  She has soared even further in our eyes as she has taken on the rabidly anti-LGBTI author Ann Coulter in the media. 

Garden State Equality also endorses Assemblyman Vince Prieto, Deputy Majority Whip and another progressive who supports marriage equality.

Senator Nicholas Sacco, running for reelection, did not return calls. 

District 33, Hudson (Part of Jersey City, all of Hoboken, Union City, West New York and Weehawken):  Brian Stack for state Senate.  Ruben Ramos for Assembly.  Carrie Rodriguez for Assembly.

Garden State Equality’s focus in this district is the election of Brian Stack to the state Senate.  Were there a list of the 10 most interesting people in New Jersey politics, Stack would surely be on it.  As reviled as he is by the local party machine for being independent, Stack, now an Assembly member and mayor of Union City, is beloved by his constituents.  It’s understandable:  Stack picks up garbage from the streets, works around the clock and is accessible to all.  He’s also one of the most pro-active leaders we’ve ever worked with.  Just before last fall’s New Jersey Supreme Court decision came down, he called us to say he would introduce a marriage equality bill were the decision to fall short.  We didn’t even have to ask, and he’s been like that on every LGBTI issue over the years.  Brian Stack in the state Senate could make all the difference in that chamber for marriage equality.

Garden State Equality also endorses Ruben Ramos and Carrie Rodriguez for Assembly, two proteges of Stack who share his passion and his views.  This is one team Garden State Equality is proud to endorse in its entirety.