There may have been few surprises in the June 6 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 Democratic primary bid for New Jersey state assembly. For Collazos-Gill, it was also a victory party, because she is unopposed in November.

Her journey to the polls started in March when she replaced longtime assemblyman Thomas Giblin on the ballot, a change made 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,” her husband, Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, said 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 Sen. 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 Sen. Nia Gill, who was moved by redistricting into Codey’s 27th District, setting up a contest with the former governor.

During Murphy’s first campaign, Collazos-Gill served as the director of the Latino Outreach Program, helping to 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-Gill was part of the second graduating class of Emerge New Jersey, a nonprofit 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 and Latinas United for Political Empowerment 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,” said Collazos-Gill, who acknowledged that getting the financial support to run can be harder for women and people of color. “Women are not usually at the table. It takes vision and being courageous.”

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, an organization she has worked with that builds the power of immigrant, working-class and 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,” Collazos-Gill said. “It was really nice seeing them and understanding they have known about the work I have done.”

About becoming an assemblywoman, Colazos-Gill said: “It’s touching, it’s humbling. 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 said she will now return the energy and support she received to buoy other Democratic candidates, including Christine Clark who is running for Senate.

— Liz George, Baristanet