Holley to Challenge Cryan in LD20 Democratic Primary


Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) will compete off the line against incumbent state Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) for Cryan’s senate seat in the June primary this year, according to sources.

If he were to prevail against the odds, Holley would be the first African American to hold the seat.

A formal announcement is expected during Black History Month, sources say.

Holley would be the third Democratic candidate in the race.

Last month, Jason Krychiw of Union – the senator’s hometown, announced he is challenging Cryan for State Senate in New Jersey’s 20th Legislative District.

“Working people deserve a champion who will fight for them at all costs,” Krychiw said in a video launching his campaign.

Krychiw is a community leader, serving as a member of the Union County Democratic Committee and as Vice Chair of Progressive Democrats of New Jersey. Krychiw is a lecturer at Kean University, teaching hundreds of students about science and microbiology. The challenger said “the Cryan political machine has failed Union County.”

Holley and Cryan ran afoul of each other almost at the beginning.

A former staffer for former Assemblyman Neil Cohen, Holley – the former mayor of Roselle – also fostered a close alliance with retired state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), once overlord of the district.

But Lesniak’s departure in 2017 and Cryan’s ascent hastened acrimony between the two men, and Union County Democratic Committee Chairman Nick Scutari’s decision to forge peace with Cryan irritated Holley.

The strategy for Holley will be to hone in on a usually low-performing Black and Latino voter performance in he urban district , paying particular attention to adding allies in Elizabeth.

Building since at least 2018, InsiderNJ wrote this at one particularly nasty juncture of the two politicians’ relationship:

Anyone wondering about the political relations between slate mates Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) and Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) need have no doubts.

They’re awful.

In the aftermath of a Plainfield Democratic Committee meeting this morning, Holley responded to Mayor Adrian Mapp’s recounting of an episode that Mapp said involved Cryan presenting the option of Linden Mayor Derek Armstead for an assembly seat in the 22nd District should the ailing Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) be unable to continue.

Frail, Green last month resigned the chairmanship of the Union County Democratic Committee.

Holley said he believes Mapp and promptly lit into the newly sworn-in senator.

“What Joe Cryan did to Mayor Andrian Mapp and the City of Plainfield is appalling and disgusting,” the assemblyman said. “He is nothing more than a modern-day Bull Connor, pitting African Americans against one another.  I’ll be the first to remind Joe that he lives in an 80 percent minority district. Joe Cryan does not represent the 22nd legislative district. He had no authority to ‘bargain’ away a seat that is not vacant.”

Cryan responded, denying Mapp’s account as a false episode.

But the vehemence of Holley’s remarks suggested that the oft-warring 20th District looks to be headed for an inevitable primary for the assemblyman’s seat in 2019, unless the sides can repair their differences.

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