A Disappointing Year for Women in New Jersey Politics

The 2022 CAWP New Jersey County Report Card

The annual New Jersey County Report Card from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, shows that women’s representation remains fundamentally stalled in New Jersey counties. While women made incremental gains as county commissioners and in municipal council offices, they lost ground as mayors in New Jersey since CAWP’s previous report card in 2021. Union County continues at the top spot in our overall county rankings – which is determined via an average of rankings for women’s representation in mayoral, county commissioner, and municipal council offices – while Salem County is this year’s lowest-ranked county for women’s representation among the 21 counties of New Jersey.

With a gain of just two seats in county commissioner (formerly freeholder) offices, women now hold 36% of these seats statewide, up from 35% in 2021. Women gained a total of 26 seats on city and town councils, but, with 3,109 such seats statewide, women’s share of these municipal council offices remained essentially unchanged at 30%. Meanwhile, women lost ground as mayors between 2021 and 2022, losing seven mayoralties and falling from 18% of mayoral seats to 16.8%.

“It’s discouraging to see such sluggish growth, and in some cases, contraction, for women’s representation in county and local offices in New Jersey,” said CAWP Associate Director Jean Sinzdak. “In the midterm elections, we tracked new records for women across levels of office nationally, albeit in small increments, but here in New Jersey it seems tremendously difficult to move the needle for county and local offices.”

“The coming year will see the return to an in-person format for our annual Ready to Run® campaign training program in New Jersey,” Sinzdak continued. “We strongly encourage any woman in the Garden State with political aspirations, ambitions, or even curiosity, to attend Ready to Run® 2023 and take advantage of the knowledge and networking the program offers. New Jersey needs you.”

The top three counties in 2022 for women’s representation in our overall rankings are Union, Middlesex, and Somerset; these three counties also were the top three in 2021, with Middlesex moving ahead of Somerset this year. The bottom three counties are Salem, Passaic, and Cape May. Passaic dropped four spots between 2021 and 2022, from the 16th to the 20th position and into the bottom three, displacing last year’s bottom-ranked county, Ocean. Salem and Cape May were also in the bottom three in 2021.

The top-ranked county this year for women’s representation in mayoral offices is Union, where women hold 38% of mayoral offices; the bottom counties are Ocean and Passaic, with women holding just 6% of mayoralties in each county. The top-ranked county for women county commissioners in 2022 is Somerset, where women hold 60% of commissioner seats. Women hold the majority of commissioner seats in four New Jersey counties in 2022: Somerset (60%), Bergen (57%), Middlesex (57%), and Union (56%). The bottom-ranked county is Salem, where zero women currently hold county commissioner seats. The top-ranked county this year for women’s representation on municipal councils is Mercer, where women hold 44% of council seats. This year’s bottom-ranked county for women’s share of council seats is Cumberland; women hold just 15% of council seats in Cumberland County. In aggregate, 11.2% of town councils in New Jersey are more than 50% women, while 17.4% of town councils in New Jersey have zero women.

Full tables for the overall county ranking and the rankings for mayoralties, county commissions, and town councils follow below. Additional information about women in New Jersey politics, including previous county report cards, milestones, and women officeholders currently and over time, can be found on our New Jersey Facts page; for comparisons, see our 2021 New Jersey County Report Card here.

Contact

Daniel De Simone: ddesimone@eagleton.rutgers.edu; 760.703.0948