Assemblyman Tom Giblin of the 27th District told InsiderNJ earlier today that he decided not to run again, confirming a new direction sought by the Democratic Party to which the Essex County leader devoted himself to for a political lifetime.
“I’ve decided not to pursue reelection,” said Giblin, an 18-year veteran of the legislature, union officer with Local 68 Operating Engineers, former Essex County Democratic Chairman, and former Democratic State Party chair.
“It’s the right time,” said Giblin, specifically citing his labor responsibilities. “We just opened a training center, and as the secretary treasurer [for the local], in addition to nonprofit and civic organization responsibilities and Irish American organizations, my plate is full.”
Giblin, 76, has had a storied career in Democratic Party politics.
As Essex County Democratic chairman in the 1990s, he secured the line for the late state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) when then-Newark Mayor Sharpe James did not want to support Rice. Giblin also won James’ support in 1997 for James McGreevey, which tilted Essex, and the Democratic Primary vote in the direction of the Woodbridge Mayor.
As state party chairman (1997-2001), Giblin said he sought to transform Ocean and Monmouth counties into places where Democrats could compete. He oversaw 2001 redistricting, which proved helpful to expanding opportunities for Democratic candidates, he said. He presided as the party’s leader at the presidential nominating convention of Vice President Al Gore and participated as an Essex County and state party leader in the rise of an empowered party under the national leadership of President Bill Clinton (1992-2000), who relied critically on New Jersey, a swing state politically prior to Clinton.
As state party chairman, Giblin reveled in the vitality of his home state.
“I enjoyed traveling the state, from Cumberland to Bergen and experiencing some of the local colors and characters,” said the retiring assemblyman. “I learned something new every day.”
As a lawmaker, Giblin said he focused on economic development and the creation of good jobs, as he strove to give “economic life to our cities, which is extremely critical, especially in places like Newark and Jersey City.” He consistently used his labor leader status on the higher education committee to try to create more vocational school education for young people. “College is not for everybody, and trades and other apprenticeship opportunities give job security to workers,” he said.
As he heads into the final months of his time in office, and on the heels of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) – an ironworker by trade – losing his reelection in 2021, Giblin underscored the foundational importance of labor in Democratic Party politics. “There’s no two ways about it, the Democratic Party’s success is attributed to 100% commitment of organized labor,” the assemblyman said.
In particular, he paid tribute to Charles Wowkanech, longtime leader of the New Jersey AFL-CIO.
“Charlie did so much of the nuts-and-bolts training and political organizing,” said Giblin. “Sometimes people get political Alzheimers. If Democrats get complacent and don’t realize the importance of organized labor, they’re making a fatal mistake.”
InsiderNJ asked Giblin if he backs the 2024 reelection of President Joe Biden.
He did add, when prompted about a Plan B for Dems – “You always need a backup plan, there’s no way of waltzing around it. Joe Biden seems of sound mind and sound body and he has handled a lot of curve balls thrown his way. The next year will be especially critical, and right now, I don’t see anyone surfacing, but don’t ever say never.”
As for the 2025 gubernatorial contest, “The way it’s shaping up, I think people miss the candidacy of Steve Sweeney.”
“If he comes in with concentrated organization behind him from labor, he will be a contender,” Giblin noted. “You can’t underestimate his ability in government. He was senate president and a freeholder. He’s up in North Jersey a lot more than people realize through his trusteeship in the ironworkers. I think he’s networking and killing two birds with one stone. You can’t miss that experience.”
He acknowledged the potential candidacies of U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, among others.
As for the person tapped by the Essex Democratic Party to run on the 27th District ticket – Alixon Collazos – Giblin said he backs her. “I’m an organizational type-Democrat, and I will back whoever emerges on the party line, for all the offices – surrogate, assembly – whatever is on that line, I’m sure I’ll be supportive.”
As for his own retirement from Trenton politics, Giblin said, “I can’t cry about it.”