Troy Singleton calls for abolishing county lines

Senator says he’d support anti-line legislation, but line will still be awarded today at Burlington convention

At today’s Burlington County Democratic convention, State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran) – possibly the most influential person in Burlington politics – made the unexpected declaration that he’d like to see the county organizational line system be abolished.

“I’m probably going to get in trouble for this,” he said from the convention stage following speeches from the candidates competing for U.S. Senate and House. “Even though I appreciate all of you being here, at some point we should just have everybody … in one block across the state.”

The line, as it’s known, is a powerful tool of political parties in New Jersey. In 19 of 21 counties, candidates endorsed by political party organizations are grouped in the same row or column on primary ballots, creating a unified slate that is tough to overcome; in some counties, the line is conferred by a small number of party leaders, while in others like Burlington it’s awarded at conventions featuring hundreds of local party faithful.

Singleton confirmed after he made his surprising pronouncement that he does indeed support ending the line, either through legislation in the statehouse (one such bill has been authored by State Sen. Shirley Turner) or via an ongoing federal lawsuit.

“There is a legal track that is happening as well as what the senator’s put forth,” Singleton said. “If that bill were to come across me, I would support it, I would vote for it. As a member of leadership, I would encourage the Senate President to look at it and try to advance it forward. But ultimately, what bills come up is his call.”

There had been widespread chatter about the possibility that Burlington Democrats could essentially nullify their own county line this year by awarding it to multiple candidates for Senate and House. Under a proposed deal, Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) and First Lady Tammy Murphy would have shared the line for Senate, and Assemblymembers Herb Conaway (D-Delran) and Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel) would have shared it for Kim’s House seat.

But Singleton confirmed that that deal is dead, and that the line – voting for which is still ongoing – will be awarded to just one candidate for Senate and one for House today. Singleton was clear that he wanted to see the line system end around the state, rather than just Burlington abdicating its own power in a vacuum.

As the State Senate’s Majority Whip, Singleton is among the most high-ranking politicians anywhere in the state to call for an end to the line. Another one of the few politicians to have done so is Kim, whose Senate campaign will run off-the-line this year in many large counties without open convention processes.

Singleton has endorsed Kim for Senate; asked whether the Senate race was what pushed him to action on the county line, he said only that he had been through an evolution on the issue.

“If we’re not continuously learning, we’re not doing the job we’re meant to do,” he said. “When I continue to talk to so many different people about this process, for me, it’s been an evolution… I think all counties should move in that direction.”

Original Article