Murphy’s ‘New’ Education Commissioner’s Fast Track to Confirmation Hits a Pothole

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Last October Gov. Phil Murphy nominated Angelica Allen-McMillan as Education Commissioner to replace his former Commissioner, Lamont Repollet. Allen-McMillan’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee–a precursor to her approval by the full State Senate–was slated for June but now she’s not quite a shoo-in. Why? 

She moved three miles from Montclair, in the 34th legislative district, to Cedar Grove, in the 40th legislative district.

Long tradition gives senators the power to overturn a nomination they oppose if the nominee lives in their legislative district, a practice called “senatorial courtesy.” When Allen-McMillan was first nominated by Murphy, she lived in Montclair and all four senators representing Essex, her home county –Democrats Nia Gill, Dick Codey, Teresa Ruiz, and Ronald Rice–gave her a thumbs-up. 

But last month Allen-McMillan bought a house in Cedar Grove and registered to vote there.  David Wildstein says, “It’s not immediately clear whether Allen-McMillan notified the Governor’s office about her move to Cedar Grove,” especially since “official records of her nomination still reflect a Montclair residency.” The 40th district is represented by a Republican, Senator Kristin Corrado. (Apparently party affiliation matters more than qualifications.)

When queried about Allen-McMillan’s change of residence yesterday, Corrado said, “That’s news to me. I did not know that. I’m really surprised.” She wouldn’t make a commitment one way or the other. and said,“I want to see the updated questionnaire.”

If a senator blocks the nomination of Education Commissioner, it will not be the first time. Back in 2011 Gov. Chris Christie nominated Chris Cerf but Senators Dick Cody and Ron Rice blocked his confirmation for 18 months.

That’s Essex County for you.

Allen-McMillan was first nominated by Murphy last October and since then she’s had the term “Acting” in front of her title. It is not an auspicious time for uncertainty in the Education Department, given the fraught reopenings of schools.

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