Catching the ‘Public Service Bug’: An InsiderNJ Interview with LD15 Candidate Ayesha Hamilton

It was Democratic Party powerhouse Grace Strom Power who saw something of a public service quality in attorney Ayesha Hamilton, a neighbor in West Windsor.

Power asked Hamilton if she would consider running for local office.

This was 2015.

Hamilton said she initially didn’t think much of the request, but then when she pondered it and discussed it with her husband, she realized she could either continue on in her role as an emp0loyment attorney griping about how women don’t get opportunities – or seize on an opportunity.

At that point, Hamilton had only live in town for two years. 

She went for it, worked hard to get the seat, and won – and discovered that she loves public service.

Now she’s running for the Assembly seat vacated by fellow Democrat Acting Treasurer Liz Muoio.

Born and raised in India , Hamilton moved to Ohio to go to college and law school, graduating from Case Western Reserve. She met her husband there and the couple moved to New Jersey, where he pursued a PhD at Princeton.

They lived above PJ’s Pancake House for a couple of years.

She commuted to Saddle River.

Later, they moved to New Brunswick, and then Saddle River, and later to Pennsylvania, following jobs.

They settled down in West Windsor four years ago, deciding on the Mercer County suburban town in large part because of the schools. They have two young children.

It’s an interesting New Jersey town.

A third Chinese.

A third South Asian. 

And a third white.

If the town has ever had an LD15 assembly person it hasn’t been any time lately.

“What we are in West Windsor are the tax dollars supporting Trenton [state government],” Hamilton told InsiderNJ. “Towns like West Windsor, Hopewell, Pennington and others tend to get a little forgotten. Liz Muoio was incredibly representative of the suburban parts of the district, an incredible advocate. And I think it’s important to bring the same demographics and send a women into public office.”

If elected, Hamilton would be the third South Asian in the legislature and the first woman, joining Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) and state Senator Vin Gopal (D-11).

The candidate – who at this moment faces Mercer County Freeholder Anthony Verrelli in a special convention contest – revels in representative government. Asked about her most significant contribution so far as an elected official, she noted the homework she did to reassess the tax evaluations of commercial ratables in West Windsor, which she said were punishing to taxpayers.

“All I bring to the table is a good mind,” said Hamilton. “I ran for public office, caught the public service bug, and I want to be part of the solution.” 

She worked on the Murphy Labor Transition Team.

The councilwoman’s mini-convention showdown with Verrelli is on Feb. 10.

Only the LD 15 committee people will vote at the convention, and they will affirm – by a vote of 50% plus one – a winner.

That person will assume the seat, and then in March, everyone will vote for the party nominee.

The winner of the election will fill out Muoio’s unexpired term and run for reelection to a full term next year.

 

 

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