Panel to examine misogyny in New Jersey politics

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Allegations of widespread misogyny in New Jersey politics will be front and center when a traveling legislative panel holds its first meeting next week.

The forum will convene Tuesday night in Fort Lee and is expected to be the first in a series that aims to shine a light on women’s experiences and overturn what some officials have called a “deep-rooted culture of misogyny.”

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg set up the panel after reports from NJ.com quoted women who worked as lobbyists as well as legislative and campaign staffers saying they had done so. subject to derogatory comments, unwanted touching and sexual assault.

Focus on the problem:

WHAT WILL THE PANEL DO?

The panel features more than a dozen women in government and state politics, including Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver and Julie Roginsky, a Democratic political consultant and former adviser to Phil Murphy before his 2017 gubernatorial election. .

Roginsky recently made headlines with allegations that Murphy’s campaign amounted to a “toxic” work environment involving “rank misogyny.” The governor said Roginsky’s claims had been seriously considered and stemmed from a difference of opinion over campaign strategy.

The panel will hold public but also closed “listening sessions” and has also set up an anonymous online survey aimed at gathering information about people’s experiences.

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WHAT LED TO THE CREATION OF THE PANEL?

The most immediate impetus was the news story on NJ.com that cited more than a dozen women alleging misconduct — including, in some cases, assault — they faced in their work in politics. the state.

But there was also more context. In a 2018 report, first reported in The Wall Street Journal, a former Murphy campaign aide was accused of sexually assaulting a woman who was also working to get the Democrat elected. The Associated Press does not typically identify people alleging sexual assault, but Katie Brennan has come forward publicly at hearings and in writing and said her complaints have fallen on deaf ears within the community. administration Murphy. Al Alvarez, the former campaign aide and state government official, denied any wrongdoing and has not been criminally charged.

Brennan’s account, however, led to legislative hearings and an investigation launched by the governor. The Legislative Assembly report concluded that the governor’s staff botched their handling of Brennan’s complaint, while Murphy’s office said it “must do better” to help victims get justice.

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WHAT DOES THE GOVERNOR SAY ABOUT THE PANEL?

Murphy initially had a lukewarm response, saying the panel should have a “whole of government” approach, but then Oliver, the lieutenant governor, made it clear that she supported the panel’s work and would join it. Oliver is Murphy’s handpicked lieutenant governor, and the two were elected on the same ticket in 2017.

Since the panel’s inception, he has also called for an overhaul of New Jersey’s political culture during his State of the State address.

Murphy’s spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro said in a statement that the governor is “committed to making positive and lasting changes to address culture in Trenton.”

She said the governor would “seek to work collaboratively” with Weinberg and the panel.

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AND AFTER?

Weinberg said the panel will hold public and private hearings. It is expected that there will be at least two more public hearings in other parts of the state. Murphy has not publicly given a timeline for the overhaul he called for in his speech.

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