New Legislative Affairs Team Hires in the Governor’s Office

The New Jersey Statehouse and Capitol Building In Trenton

The Murphy administration has some new staff members on its (now all-women) Legislative Affairs team. They will join Acting Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs Paulina Banasiak (who stepped into her role when Justin Braz left for the campaign) and senior legislative aide Awilda Pomales-Diaz (who started at the Governor’s Office in March 2020).

Here are bios for the whole Leg affairs team:

Paulina Banasiak serves as Acting Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs. Paulina previously served as the Director of Legislative Affairs. Prior to joining the Murphy Administration in 2018 she was Assemblyman Mukherji’s Chief of Staff and the Director of Legislation for Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. Paulina is an immigrant from Poland who currently resides in Burlington County. She received her bachelor’s in psychology from Montclair State University and her master’s in social work from Rutgers University.

Awilda Pomales-Diaz serves as a Senior Legislative Aide in the Legislative Affairs Department within the Office of Governor Phil Murphy, she started with the Governor in March 2020. She is also the liaison for the Legislative Latino Caucus. Previously, she served as the Legislative Director for Assemblyman Chiaravalloti in Hudson County. Prior to working in Hudson County, she began her professional career within the Office of Senator Lagana, Assemblywoman Swain, and Assemblyman Tully in Bergen County and as an intern for U.S. Senator Cory Booker. She received her B.A. from Saint Peter’s University in Communications and Political Science and currently resides in her hometown Jersey City.

Sam Bender is originally from Cape May, but currently resides in Maple Shade. Bender most recently served as the Legislative Director for Assemblyman Bill Moen. Previously she was a Legislative Aide to Assemblywoman Carol Murphy and a Deputy Chief of Staff in the First Legislative District. She is currently the President of South Jersey Young Democrats. Samantha will serve as a Senior Legislative Aide and be the South Jersey Liaison for the Governor on the Legislative Affairs team.

Medinah Muhammad, a lifelong resident of Essex County, Medinah Muhammad holds a Bachelor’s degree from Montclair State University and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Rutgers University–Newark with a Master’s degree in Political Science.  She formerly served as Chief of Staff for Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake of the 34th legislative district where she helped to author policies like The People’s Bill, landmark legislation to create policing accountability, $15 per hour minimum wage bill, and the marijuana legalization and decriminalization bill, just to name a few. Prior to serving in this role, Medinah served as the Public Information Officer for the Essex County Board of Commissioners. She has been named to InsiderNJ’s “100 Millennials 2020” and “100 Policymakers 2021” lists. ” She will serve as a Senior Legislative Aide for the Governor’s office handling social justice issues and serve as the liaison for the legislative black caucus.

Sophia Dolashewich born and raised in Marlboro graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Political Science with a focus on Environmental Studies from Towson University. Her political and environmental career started with the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters as a policy intern where she delt with stormwater and water quality issues. From there, Sophia started as a policy intern and worked up to become Legislative Director to Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak of the 18th Legislative District where she worked on key issues regarding New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure and climate resiliency. Now, taking on the role of Legislative Aide to the Governor, Sophia handles the environmental portfolio and hopes to continue working on issues regarding climate change, land use, and community resilience.


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