The New Jersey League of Municipalities’ annual conference in Atlantic City draws some of the state’s biggest political players every year — more for the parties at the end of the day than the actual conference, many say.
It’s the place that Gov.-elect Phil Murphy was deemed to have all but secured his win in the public perception, with a November 2016 pool party at Harrah’s Resort that was attended by hundreds.
The parties, hosted by lobbying firms and companies, as well as political leaders, also have been increasingly focused on minority efforts to be heard.
For the last few years, the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and women in political leadership have hosted parties. There was also a joint party by Garden State Equality and the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, as well as a party hosted by African-American legislators.
Numerous Democratic election wins on Nov. 7 created an energy around the minority communities, which are anticipating having their voices heard more than before — based on the campaign promise by Murphy to have a government that represents the demographics of the state.
Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, said the incoming administration appears focused on inclusion of LGBT rights.
“Murphy ran a campaign that showed value for diversity and commitment to communities that are often overlooked. So, I am confident, as he assembles his new administration, he is going to ensure representation from all communities of New Jersey — especially those that weren’t represented in the former administration, and, to be honest, were ignored by the former administration,” Fuscarino said.
GSE intends to make sure that three main issues are a top priority for Murphy in first few months.
The first is the birth certificate bill, to ensure transgender individuals can change their gender marker, and finally be recognized in the manner they wish.
The next is ensuring LGBT-owned businesses are recognized and get state benefits for being a minority-owned business the way other minority-owned businesses do.
The last is reclassifying veterans that were dishonorably discharged under the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, so they can get state benefits they are entitled to for fighting for our country.
Carlos Medina, chairman of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has received recognition for and from the Latino community in the state for his high profile in politics and business.
“Perception becomes reality, so it’s important that people realize the value of our network, the value of being a member,” he said.
And, now, the Hispanic chamber’s vice chairman, Luis De La Hoz, is on Murphy’s transition team.
“We hope to continue to have a dialogue for four years with him. Since we are a nonpartisan organization, I believe we can better do that than another organization, where politics will get in the way and they won’t be able to have honest conversations,” Medina said.
African-American Chamber of Commerce President John Harmon believes that, with the election of Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) as Murphy’s lieutenant governor, the African-American community is energized.
“Sheila Oliver made a difference in this campaign,” he said. “That cannot be understated, and I know the folks in Essex County and that part of the state are really expecting a lot. Policy has got to align with the (campaign) promises.”
African-Americans gave a majority of their votes to Murphy, “so, we have significant equity in this campaign. So, the expectation is a high level of reciprocity,” Harmon said.
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson), who was a part of the party hosted by women in the Legislature, said the election results across the country have been a motivation.
“When we are talking about sick leave, when we are talking about women’s health — all those issues are critical and, if we are not part of leadership, then things get overlooked and we have to fight that much harder,” she said. “We are still on a high from the election, where it was women to tip the scale, so I believe we are getting recognition.
“We’ve all been motivated since the last election, when ‘45’ (President Donald Trump) won, because we all realized the consequences are too great to really turn back the clock on the battles we won, and now we are fighting those battles over again. We are fully engaged, we have some young energy behind it and we have social media to help us amplify it.”
Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Moorestown), now a state senator-elect, said the results of Nov. 7 are behind the energy in the state.
“With elections and with victories, I think you see a lot more effervescence from the majority party if they win; I think that’s what you’re seeing now,” he said. “You are seeing so many folks that are so excited to be a part of dictating government again and putting their fingerprints on government again.”