On Tuesday, Nov. 2, voters across New Jersey will head to the polls to cast ballots for their ballots to fill all 80 seats in the state Assembly and 40 seats in the state Senate.
In the 37th Legislative District, which is made up of Alpine, Bogota, Cresskill, Englewood, Englewood Cliffs, Fort Lee, Hackensack, Leonia, Northvale, Palisades Park, Rockleigh, Teaneck and Tenafly, half of the 156,400 registered voters are Democrat and 14% are Republican.
The GOP has not won any races in the 37th since the state adopted its 40-district map back in 1973.
Three candidates—Democratic Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Conservative Michael Koontz and Independent Glenn Cole—are seeking the state Senate seat that Democrat Loretta Weinberg is vacating after 16 years in office.
Five candidates are vying for the district’s two assembly seats. Current assembly members—Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle—are not running for re-election.
The Democratic candidates, former Tenafly councilwoman Shama Haider and former Englewood Cliffs councilwoman Ellen Park, have scored several key endorsements, including ones from Weinberg, as well as Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
In a tweet following the June primaries, Murphy congratulated them and described Johnson, Haider and Park as “steadfast changemakers” who are “focused on moving Bergen County forward.”
The GOP’s slate consists of Edward Durfee, Jr. and Perley Patrick. Independent Natacha Pannell has also filed to run.
Bergen County Republican Chairman Jack Zisa has acknowledged the party faces challenges in the district, telling the New Jersey Globe in April, “They weren’t handpicked candidates. They were candidates that were eager to run for office and they were pretty much unopposed. No one else had the desire to run in District 37.”
Here is a rundown of who is running for a seat in the State Legislature in the 37th Legislative District.
Democrat: Gordon Johnson
Bio: An assemblyman since 2002, the Englewood native has held positions including deputy speaker, majority conference leader and deputy conference leader. He has also been appointed to committees such as budget, commerce and economic development and judiciary. Prior to entering politics, Johnson worked in local law enforcement, serving as Bergen County sheriff from 2001 to 2002 and undersheriff from 1999 to 2001 and 2002 to 2005. Johnson’s background also includes 25 years as a sergeant at Englewood Police Department.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Johnson was the first African American to hold countywide office in Bergen County, as well as Bergen County’s first African American sheriff.
Republican: Michael Koontz
Bio: A self-described conservative, Koontz has previously sought multiple public offices including state Senate (1997), Congress (1998), state Assembly (1999), freeholder (2000) and governor (2001). This year’s bid marks the first time Koontz is running as a Republican, however, though he is not under the Bergen County Republican Organization’s ticket. The Hackensack resident works as a design consultant, project manager and independent screenwriter. He is also involved with volunteer efforts, like the Bergen Food Pantry and Coats for Seniors.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Koontz said he is running to reduce property taxes, increase business opportunities and create jobs.
Independent: Glenn Coley
Bio: An Englewood resident who previously sought a city council seat as a Republican in 2017, Coley is now running as a New Directions party candidate. His agenda includes gun violence legislation, diversity training for police, increased housing and opportunities for the homeless, COVID-19-related safety mandates, free mental health services and job creation.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Coley is one of only three third-party candidates vying for state Senate seats this year.
Democrat: Shama Haider
Bio: A Pakistan native, Haider worked as secretary to the First Lady of Pakistan before emigrating to the U.S. She is also a former Tenafly councilwoman and mayoral candidate and now chair of the Tenafly Democratic Party. Haider has also served on the Bergen County Commission on the Status of Women, Bergen County Human Services Advisory Council and Tenafly Business Development Committee.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: If elected, Haider would be the first Muslim to serve in the state Legislature.
Democrat: Ellen Park
Bio: An attorney and former Englewood Cliffs councilwoman, Park spent her time in office focused on green initiatives in the community and hopes to continue those efforts on a statewide level as an assemblywoman.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Park would also be the first Asian American woman to serve in Trenton.
Republican: Edward Durfee, Jr.
Bio: A Northvale resident and IT consultant, Durfee is a longtime member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right antigovernment group that authorities say played a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. While Durfee was in DC that day, he denied entering the building and media reports have backed up his claims. Durfee, who was born in Germany and served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the current Republican municipal chair in Northvale and is a county committee representative.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Durfee describes himself as a “Republican with conservative values that include financial austerity, freedom of speech, rights of assembly, respect for life, right to bear arms and personal responsibility.”
Republican: Perley Patrick
Bio: A Teaneck resident, Patrick served two years in the US Navy (1958-1960) and is affiliated with the National Rifle Association and Association of Mature American Citizens. He describes himself as a “concerned patriot willing to change the way business is done in Trenton” and lists property tax reform, term limits for legislators and returning schools to “teaching basic skills rather than indoctrinating” as key issues.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Patrick is not a member of the Oath Keepers but has said he supports the group.
Independent: Natacha Pannell
Bio: An Englewood resident and chief executive officer/founder of Corner to Corner Community Empowerment, Pannell believes policies should put children and seniors first. Her key issues include gun reform, affordable health care and mental health services, veteran homelessness and banning single-use plastics.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Pannell co-founded an organization in honor of her brother, Phillip, a black teenager shot and killed by a white Teaneck police officer in 1990. The non-profit aims to prevent senseless acts of violence, as well as raise awareness about violence against people of color.