MOUNTAINSIDE – Attorney Annette Quijano narrowly edged out Elizabeth Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste to replace former Assemblyman Neil Cohen in a special election held Tuesday.
Cohen, who represented a district which includes Elizabeth, Kenilworth, Roselle and Union Township, resigned last month while under investigation for allegedly possessing child pornography images.
Quijano, 46, an assistant counsel to Gov. Jon Corzine, defeated Perkins-Auguste 87-82 in the vote by county committee members from the district’s four towns. Quijano is the first minority representative to fill a legislative seat in the district, despite the fact that it has a minority-majority population.
Quijano’s term began immediately; she will have to run against a Republican candidate in November to hold on to it.
Quijano was not mentioned in the initial group of potential candidates for Cohen’s vacated seat, but she won the support of Union County Freeholder Angel Estrada and real estate agent and Hispanic party activist George Castro who withdrew from their own efforts to win the seat.
Perhaps more importantly, she had the right connections. Quijano once worked in the office of state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), one of the key power brokers in New Jersey’s Democratic Party. Lesniak, along with Assemblyman/Democratic State Chairman Joe Cryan and County Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo remained officially neutral, but likely played a key role in determining the outcome behind the scenes.
Quijano hasn’t had a chance to outline much of a legislative agenda but told PolitickerNJ.com, “I’m going to represent people in my community. We’re going through a tough economic period and I want to make sure that seniors don’t have to decide between groceries and medication. I want to bring jobs back into the district.”
Union County Republican Chairman Phil Morin criticized the choice, saying that the Democrats wasted an opportunity for change. “Instead of choosing someone who will change the culture of corruption in Trenton, they have chosen someone who is inextricably linked with the failed policies of the Corzine and McGreevey administrations,” Morin said. “Undoubtedly, the newest member of the Trenton aristocracy will be a loyal footsoldier who will blindly vote for higher property taxes, bigger government and sweetheart deals for connected insiders.”
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