Jelks-Bandison challenges for Assembly seat

EAST ORANGE-ORANGE, NJ — Incumbent state Assembly members Britnee Timberlake and Tom Giblin will be running against challenger Simone J. Jelks-Bandison in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, June 4, for the two legislative seats up for grabs in the 34th District, which includes East Orange and Orange.

Timberlake ran for and won a special election last year to fill the Assembly seat left vacant when former Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver became lieutenant governor alongside Gov. Phil Murphy when he won the gubernatorial race.

Giblin and Timberlake are part of the Essex County Democratic Committee ticket, while Jelks-Bandison is running on the Essex County Progressive Democrats ticket organized by former East Orange Councilwoman and Essex County Freeholder Carol Clark and former East Orange Councilman and Code Enforcement Department Director Dwight Saunders, who are both seeking elected positions in the county level of government.

Timberlake said voters won’t see any change in her, now that she’s running a campaign to retain the Assembly seat she won in a special election.

“I represent East Orange, Clifton, Montclair as well as Orange, and you might know me from most recently really progressive bills that have passed, such as the $15-an-hour minimum wage, such as requiring that there be an independent investigation, in the event that a person loses their life during police custody or while they’re having interaction with law enforcement,” said Timberlake on Thursday, Feb. 21. “These are things that I sponsored and these are things that I believe in. I’m down at the Assembly and writing laws for my community is an absolute privilege.”

Timberlake said she is asking voters to give her the opportunity to serve them again by helping her get elected to represent the 34th Legislative District.

“I just want to say: Thank you. Thank you for your support on the ballot last year, when I ran for special election to replace the now lieutenant governor, our ‘shero,’ Sheila Oliver,” said Timberlake. “The Assembly seat is actually up every two years. … I’m actually up for the regular term. So I’m asking for your support again. I’m at the top of the ticket and the ticket on the down ballot could not be more amazing, because it has representatives like Brittany Claybrooks on it and I stand in personal endorsement of her and also her character and her vision and her foresight for doing the right thing by people. And that’s what we need more of.”

Jelks-Bandison said she’s running against Timberlake in order to give 34th District voters what they really need.

“I don’t always say I’m running against anyone. There’s two incumbents who are currently running for re-election, but I’m not running against anyone; I’m running for the seat. I don’t like to use that term, because it’s very personal, but it’s not personal for me,” said Jelks-Bandison on Friday, May 24, during the East Orange Progressive Democrats and Essex County Progressive Democrats rally outside East Orange City Hall, ahead of the city’s annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27.

“One of the biggest issues is people are being taxed out of their homes. In East Orange especially, when people’s mortgages are less than their taxes, they can’t afford to live here anymore. There’s no accountability. There’s no transparency. There’s a very big disconnect between what’s happening at the state, at the city and at the county level and what people see is actually happening in the streets.”

Jelks-Bandison said she knows what’s going on in East Orange and the other parts of the 34th District and that’s why she wants voters to send her to Trenton.

“I’m not criticizing the current Assembly people. I’m not saying that they haven’t done a great job and they don’t put forth great legislation, but I think that a mindset also needs to be changed. We need someone with maybe some fresh ideas, progressive solutions to current problems and, if you’re not in the community, you have no idea what they are,” she said. “I am knee-deep in what’s going on in East Orange. I am knee-deep in what’s going on in my county level and my state, so that’s the reason why I’m running.”

Republicans Bharat T. Rana and Irene DeVita are running for the two Assembly seats in the Republican primary, also on Tuesday, June 4, on the Essex Republican Party Organization ticket.

According to East Orange city clerk Cynthia Brown and Durkin, the Democratic Party is the majority in Essex County, so primary winners very often win in the November general election.