New Jersey is throwing its hat into the ring to be one of the first states to hold a presidential primary as the Democratic party is reviewing its calendar.
In a letter to the Democratic National Committee, New Jersey Democratic Party Chairman Leroy Jones Jr. made the arguments that New Jersey should be one of the first primary states when it comes to deciding the party’s nominee.
“New Jersey has everything that our party needs to fulfill this important role,” wrote Jones. “Our party cannot cling to outdated traditions that do not help us reach new voters and motivate the diverse coalition of supporters needed to win elections and enact our pro-middle class agenda.”
Moving Beyond Iowa, NH
Iowa and New Hampshire have historically been the first two states to screen presidential nominees for each party. But Democrats are debating their first-in-the-nation status as party members have criticized the two states as not being racially diverse enough to kick off the Democratic nomination process.
Jones highlighted New Jersey as being as diverse as any state in the nation, with a population makeup of 10% Asian American, 15% Black, and 21% Latino with proportions that are significantly higher among registered Democrats voting in a primary.
“As the home of Ellis Island, New Jersey has a long and storied tradition of welcoming immigrants throughout our history. This striking level of diversity makes New Jersey truly representative of the Democratic Party and the current and future American electorate,” opined Jones.
The rise of Latino’s as a voting block has risen in prominence for both parties in recent year. Jones noted that New Jersey’s is one that offers a sampling of background and demographics.
“Our Latino community is particularly diverse, with large populations ranging from recent immigrants to first, second and third generation residents whose ancestry can be traced back to countries and regions such as Cuba, Central America, South America, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, among others,” he wrote.
Jones, who serves as Essex County Democratic Chairman, promoted the size of and geographic diversity as being a microcosm of the country.
“Our state is noteworthy for its compact size as the fourth smallest state in the nation, which would save candidates valuable travel time and resources and encourage the kind of retail campaigning that has always been a hallmark of the Democratic presidential primary process,” wrote Jones.
“We are widely considered to be one of the most suburban states in the nation, but are also home to some of the most densely populated municipalities in the country, in addition to rural communities in Northwest and South Jersey,” he continued. “No other state affords its residents the opportunity to wake up in a city, spend the day hiking on a rural trail or mountain, and then enjoy an oceanfront view for dinner the way that New Jersey does — making our state the ideal proving ground for political candidates across urban, suburban, and rural settings.”
Ease of Voting
Besides the demographics of the state, Jones noted New Jersey being a “proud union state” as over 16% of New Jersey’s workforce being union members (six point higher that the national average) as well as a pro-choice and pro-LGBTQI rights state “that unabashedly believes that we must protect everyone’s reproductive rights and serve as a welcoming home for all.”
Additionally, the state chair advanced the expansion of voting rights in New Jersey to make it easier and more convenient for voters to have their voices heard.
“Through the leadership of Gov. Phil Murphy, Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, and our Legislature, New Jersey has expanded access to vote by mail, implemented automatic voter registration, enacted online voter registration, instituted in-person early voting, restored voting rights to individuals on probation and parole, and taken many other steps to strengthen our democracy,” wrote Jones.
As for politics, Jones argued New Jersey lies at the center of the party’s efforts to protect their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and protect four incumbents—Reps. Andy Kim, Josh Gottheimer, Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill—who represent swing districts.
“Our state is home to many suburban voters who have been driven away from the Republican Party by Trumpism and are now helping the Democratic Party achieve a governing majority,” he stated. “We also hold the distinction of being one of the few states that conducts off-year gubernatorial elections, making us a national bellwether that often signals coming political tides.”
To bolster New Jersey case, State Sen. Richard Codey (D-27) pledged to introduce legislation moving the state’s primary forward as the decision on when to hold any New Jersey primary is up to the state legislature and governor. Party leaders have stated their desire to have the Presidential primary separate from state races.
Members of the national rules and bylaws committee reportedly have been told to expect to work on the issue throughout the Summer with the intention of setting a firm nomination calendar by the Fall.
Jones said moving New Jersey up in the calendar would continue in the spirit of the 2006 decision of additional early primary states that better represented the diversity of the nation and the party.
“It is time for the Democratic Party to move boldly into the future with a presidential primary calendar that reflects the diversity of our party and nation,” stated Jones. “Moving to a new, modernized presidential nominating system would send a strong message that the Democratic Party is focused not on the past, but on the future.”
“Let’s make New Jersey one of the first primary states, and set up future Democratic Party presidential nominees for long-term success.”