POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Will New Jersey elect a record number of women to the Legislature?

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Gina Trish and Kate Matteson are trying to join what could become a historic New Jersey Legislature — the most women ever elected to represent state districts.

“That’s great news for women and for the state of New Jersey. Only this year or last year we couldn’t pass equal pay for equal work,” said Matteson, Assembly candidate for Legislative District 24.

They’re running in a district where Republican and unaffiliated registered voters combined outnumber Democrats four to one.

“What we’ve learned from polling is that the majority of the people who live in this district based on who the candidate is, not a political party,” said Gina Trish, Assembly candidate for Legislative District 24.

Trish and Matteson say they’ve focused on the issues.

“Voting records are reflective of the lack of resources we’re receiving back here from Trenton,” said Trish.

Hal Wirths is the state’s former labor commissioner, running with incumbent Assemblyman Parker Space.

“I think our opponents are completely out of touch with the 24th District. It’s the most contrasting election that we could ever have,” said Wirths.

“I think that they, more or less, would fit the type of legislators that would represent what Hudson and Camden County,” said Space.

Space caught heat for posing with a Confederate banner this summer and was secretly recorded calling challenger Matteson a name.

“Kate’s a bitch. I don’t know about Gina, I’ve never talked to her,” said Space.

“I’m not, I’m not … ” interjected Jennifer Hamilton, a candidate for Senate in District 24.

“And you can put that on the record,” said Space.

Space used the word three times.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have used the ‘b’ word. Maybe rude or nasty should have been more in line,” he said.

The Republicans seem to dismiss its potential significance. But not the Democrats.

“This is exactly why we don’t get the respect we deserve down in Trenton, is that we don’t have a person who is a statesman,” said Matteson.

“I think it shows the type of legislator that he is not and we can all do better than that,” said Trish.

The Center for American Women and Politics says the comment goes beyond insulting a challenger.

The Center’s Executive Director Debbie Walsh says a high number of women are running in 2017 and that could produce the highest number of women in the Legislature.

“I think if he’s still in the Legislature, and there are more women there, he’s going to feel it. He’s going to feel that those women are starting to make assumptions about him and are going to not be as receptive as he might need them to be when he wants to pass a piece of legislation,” said Walsh.

Space’s responded saying, “Right now, and in the last voting session, the Democrats have put hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to get rid of women in the Assembly.”

Space says the voters will decide the weight of his words and record — and the Democrats say they sure hope so.