TRENTON — Confirming weeks of speculation, Elizabeth Maher Muoio today announced her intention to run for the state Assembly in Central Jersey’s 15th legislative district, after a seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Rep.-elect Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12).
Muoio, whose name had previously circulated as a likely candidate — and front runner — in the race to replace Watson Coleman, issued a statement this afternoon declaring her candidacy in LD15, which encompasses parts of Mercer and Hunterdon counties.
“The 15th Legislative District is one of the most richly diverse districts in the state, with tremendous cultural and historical resources, a wide range of both economic assets and challenges, and a unique mix of urban, suburban and rural lifestyles,” Muoio said. “I have been fortunate to have served and worked effectively with the people of this great district as a public official at both the municipal and county level, and I will put this experience to use in providing the people and towns of the 15th Legislative District with the effective progressive leadership they have come to expect and deserve in the Assembly.”
Muoio, a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, earned her law degree from Georgetown University while working on Washington, D.C., first in constituent services and later as Legislative Director for Congressman Jack Brooks, D-TX. Muoio and her husband Joe have lived in Pennington since 1995 and have three children. She served on the Pennington Borough Council from 1998 through 2001, and won her first race for Mercer County Freeholder in November 2000. She subsequently won re-election to her freeholder seat in 2003 and 2006.
In 2008 she gave up her seat on the Freeholder Board to join County Executive Brian Hughes’ administration as Director of Economic Development and Sustainability, a position she still holds. In June 2010 she was elected to her first two-year term as Chair of the Mercer County Democratic Committee. She was re-elected County Chair in 2012 and 2014.
Muoio’s official declaration would seem to solidify much of the speculation that has surrounded Watson Coleman’s replacement, which is set to be determined at a Mercer County Democratic Committee convention in January. Other candidates who have expressed interest in the seat include Lambertville Mayor Dave DelVecchio, Mercer County Freeholder Lucy Walters, and PBA Local 105 President Lance Lopez, Sr. who said he’s formed and exploratory committee to gauge support for a run.
But the biggest rivalry might be between Muoio and Mercer County Freeholder Samuel T. Frisby, who has also formed an exploratory committee and who told PolitickerNJ last month that he “thinks we will run” for the seat. That could make for a heated special convention, as Frisby, also the CEO of the Trenton YMCA, is backed by the city’s newly-minted mayor, Eric Jackson.
Hughes has already expressed his support for Muoio, calling her the “most qualified” candidate for the job and arguing she’s in the best position to win January’s convention.
Political observers note that the blossoming contest has put some strain on the relationship between the two Mercer County Democratic leaders, who are still “in the courting phase” of their relationship, as one Democratic source put it.
In her statement, Muoio also announced the support of LD15 mayors who have thus far endorsed her candidacy.
“I am extremely honored to have received the endorsement of many of the mayors in this district, including Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann, Lawrence Township Mayor Cathleen Lewis, West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, Hopewell Township Mayor Vanessa Sandom, Pennington Borough Mayor Anthony Persichilli, and Hopewell Borough Mayor Paul Anzano,” Muoio said. “I also appreciate the endorsement and words of support from former West Windsor Councilman Kamal Khanna who withdrew his candidacy for this seat earlier this week.”
PolitickerNJ first reported Khanna’s withdrawal here.