Heading into a redistricting year, players for both teams now stand on the giant chess board in the attack position since New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Jay Webber moments ago announced the GOP members of the 2011 Legislative Apportionment Commission.
The five Republican members Webber appointed to his delegation are Webber himself, who will serve as chairman; Republican State Committeewoman Irene Kim Asbury, of Jersey City, who will serve as the delegation’s Vice-Chair; Senator Kevin O’Toole of Cedar Grove; Ocean County Republican Chairman George R. Gilmore, of Toms River; and Republican National Committeeman Bill Palatucci, of Westfield.
“It is a great honor, and an even greater responsibility, to serve as the Commission’s Republican Chairman,” said Webber. “Our members are eager to begin the process of working with the residents of this great state and our Democrat colleagues to create an apportionment plan that fairly represents our state’s diverse and growing population and adheres to our Constitution.
“The Republican members of this Commission place a premium on input from and participation by the public in this process,” the chairman added. “With that in mind, we call on our Democrat colleagues on the Commission to join us in immediately setting a schedule for public hearings to encourage and receive those vital contributions from the public.”
Webber’s redistricting team now faces the one fielded in September by Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski.
The Democrats’ team consists of Wisniewski, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-Union Twp.), state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), and former Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez from Camden.
Palatucci, the GOP powerbroker behind Christie, and Asbury, appeared today on Webber’s list bearing the specific thumbprints of the governor, indicative of Christie’s eagerness to frontline his precense in the process, and apparently in place of state Sen. Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsipanny), whom Republicans familiar with the process expected to see on the field.
“This is a governor who is going to be very involved of redistricting, that’s obvious,” a prominent Democratic Party power player from Mercer County said, based on his/her observations of the governor’s footprint in that county in the past election.
Kean issued a statement of approval.
“The members of this Commission are charged with an extremely important job,” said the senate minority leader. “There is no question that the Republican delegation is comprised of tremendously competent individuals whose diverse backgrounds and vast experience will best represent all New Jersey communities.”
DeCroce told PolitickerNJ.com the process is in Webber’s hands.
“I have the utmost confidence in the Republican members appointed to serve on this Commission to create a plan that fairly represents the hard working residents of this state,” he said in a statement. “The members of my caucus and I look forward to supporting our Commission members as they begin their important task.”
Webber’s selection of Gilmore came as no surprise to party insiders, who anticipate a Republican play for greater representation in Ocean County at the expense of Essex, where former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) has muscled up with a warchest totaling over $2 million in the event Republicans exact a tradeoff and attempt to make him the sacrificial lamb by lumping him in Morris County and downsizing a Democratic senator.
The irony is that, to this day, players on both side of the aisle marvel at Codey’s 2000 redistricting leadership, which produced a map that favored Democratic Party represenation and left Republicans chafing for ten years.
A solo law practitioner and active member of the Asian-Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, Asbury ran for the assembly last year in the heavily Democratic 31st District, getting crushed in the process but emerging as a Christie loyalist.