By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
After she voted in her hometown of Montclair, New Jersey Sen. Nia Gill expressed confidence about her chances of winning today’s Democratic primary election in the 34th legislative district.
“It’s gonna be won on the issues of public education and the issues that are important to the constituents of the 34th district,” Gill said.
Gill has a long track record in the state legislature, starting in the Assembly in 1994 through 2001. Subsequently she moved up to the Senate where she has served four terms. She says she’s faced tough opponents over the years. Pundits say her current challenger, Mark Alexander, is a serious contender because he’s well funded. Alexander’s also got excellent political connections, forged while serving as the state director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and national director for Bill Bradley’s presidential race.
“I’m out there knocking doors of people, meeting voters at train stations. Every day just taking my case to people — supermarkets, churches, wherever people are, that’s where I go. It’s a grassroots movement, just like we built with the Obama campaign — one person, one day, one vote at a time,” Alexander said.
Both candidates have notable supporters. Highlights for Gill include the NJEA, the state’s largest teacher’s union, as well as the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey. And Alexander has been endorsed by former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley as well as the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, the head of the Black Minister’s Council of New Jersey, who is also a vocal supporter of school vouchers.
Regardless of Jackson’s endorsement, Alexander is not a fan of vouchers.
“I don’t support vouchers. And what’s really amazing about this is, I sat with Sen. Gill at two debates, back to back days and I said to her directly, I do not support vouchers. The next day, she puts out a mailer that says that I do. The day after that, another mailer. She’s deliberating distorting truth when she’s told to her face my position, she still insists on putting forth lies,” Alexander said.
Meantime, Alexander, a Seton Hall University law professor, accuses Gill of being beholden to political bosses. He points to her support of a no-bid legal contract with the Essex County Improvement Authority as an example.
“I’ve been a lawyer for 38 years. Essex County Improvement Authority is a client. And of course the reason you know about it is because it’s on my public disclosure statement,” Gill said.
Alexander, who has never held a major public office, knows he’s facing an uphill battle because Gill is the incumbent and she has the party line. Both candidates have raised about $300,000.
Whoever wins the primary will likely win the November election.