There may have been few surprises in yesterday’s New Jersey primary election, but there was definitely a lot of joy at Just Jake’s in Montclair last night when Montclair’s Alixon Collazos-Gill learned she had won her primary bid for NJ state assembly. For Collazos-Gill, it was also a victory party, as she is unopposed in November.
Her journey to the polls started back in March when she replaced longtime assemblyman Thomas Giblin on the ballot in a change to the ticket that came down to the wire, just days before the deadline to file petitions for the June Primary.
“Although Alixon was new to some people, she was not new to this work,” said her husband, Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill Tuesday night. “She was not new to these constituencies, she was not new to these communities. Although she did not hold office before, the reason in my opinion, that so many organizations jumped in to support her right away was, because of all that deep work she did to help so many people along the way. And I’m so happy and proud that all those people stepped up to help her pursue this endeavor.”
One of those people was Gov. Phil Murphy, who endorsed Collazos-Gill along with Senator Richard Codey and Assemblyman John McKeon in the Democratic Primary’s Legislative District 27, which includes West Orange, Livingston, Millburn, Montclair, Roseland and Clifton. Both Codey and McKeon won; the only incumbent who lost was longtime Senator Nia Gill, who was moved into Codey’s 27th District after redistricting and faced Codey in the primary.
During Gov. Murphy’s first campaign, Collazos served as the director of the Latino Outreach Program where she helped design and execute the successful outreach program for the first time candidate. Under her leadership, the campaign established a series of Latino Policy Forums allowing for early input from the Latino community on the campaign’s policy agenda.
In 2015, Collazos was part of the second graduating class of Emerge New Jersey, a non-for-profit organization that trains Democratic women to run for public office. She also serves on the executive board of the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center (NJHRIC) and Latinas United for Political Empowerment Fund (LUPE Fund).
Collazos-Gill thanked LeRoy Jones, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee and a former Essex County assemblyman, for his vision.
“Diversity matters. Women are not usually at the table. It takes vision and being courageous,” said Collazos-Gill, who acknowledged that getting the financial support to run can be harder for women and people of color.
She also thanked the “many people that stepped up and said ‘what can we do,’ not just for me, but ‘what we can collectively do for the state of New Jersey.'”
“The process also taught me I had done a lot of work, but I had not realized how important it was,” she said.
Collazos-Gill recalled some of that work at a meeting Tuesday morning with Make The Road New Jersey, anorganization she has worked with that builds the power of immigrant, working-class & Latinx communities to achieve dignity and respect through community organizing, high-quality legal services, policy innovation and transformative education.
“This was one of the organizations that supported me and endorsed me,” says Collazos-Gill. “It was really nice seeing them and understanding they have known about the work I have done.”
“It’s touching, it’s humbling,” says Collazos-Gill of becoming an assemblywoman. “It’s a lot of responsibility. It’s not just working on issues affecting Montclair and the other districts I represent, but legislative items that will affect the entire state.”
Collazos-Gill will now return the energy and support she received to buoy other Democratic candidates, including Christine Clark who is running for Senate.