Sweeney Sues to Reverse Removal from NJ Redistricting Panel
TRENTON – Former Senate President Steve Sweeney is suing to try to get back his spot on the commission that is redrawing New Jersey’s legislative district map.
Sweeney, who lost his Senate seat in November and left office two weeks ago, was removed from the Apportionment Commission on Wednesday by LeRoy Jones Jr., the Democratic Party state chairman and head of its redistricting delegation.
The lawsuit calls that a “unilateral and unlawful removal” from a constitutionally appointed position, in part because there was no cause for it, it is too late for new appointees, and state party leaders must “give due consideration to the representation of the various geographical areas of the state.”
Sweeney, who had selected himself as a commission member, was the only South Jerseyan in the Democratic delegation. He was replaced by Laura Matos, who lives in Belmar though was raised in Burlington County.
Sweeney also said he has complied fully with a contractual agreement with Jones he signed in November 2020, in which the commissioners agreed to limit their public comments and actions and to vote in a bloc at all times, including the final decision on a new map.
“The politically punitive actions by Jones cannot override the New Jersey Constitution and the terms and conditions of the loyalty agreement that Sweeney was required to sign once he was duly appointed to the New Jersey Apportionment Commission as the only Democratic member from the eight counties of southern New Jersey,” says a brief that is part of the lawsuit filed by attorney William Tambussi.
Jones, in remarks at the start of Wednesday night's Apportionment Commission meeting, implied that he anticipated a fight over Sweeney's removal.
"Now, to be clear, I am many things. Naïve is not one of them," Jones said. "I took this important step with the full recognition and understanding of the potential for backlash from powerful constituencies both in New Jersey and from other states that may consider their own political fortunes to be negatively impacted. That very consideration shows the importance and the necessity for a new member."
Proposed maps are due to be submitted next week from the Democratic and Republican delegations to the commission’s 11th member, retired Appellate Judge Philip Carchman. The maps may be made public the week after that. A final map must be approved by March 1.