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New Jersey’s First South Asian Woman Mayor Announces Run for Assembly Seat in District 16

New Jersey’s First South Asian Woman Mayor Announces Run for Assembly Seat in District 16

Anu Ghosh
  • Sadaf Jaffer, the former mayor of Montgomery Township is looking to make history once again by becoming the first Asian American woman as well as the first Muslim American to serve in the state legislature.

Dr. Sadaf Jaffer, the former mayor of Montgomery Township in New Jersey, has announced that she’s running for an Assembly seat in the 16th Legislative District. For the 2020–2021 Legislative Session (Senate, General Assembly) the district is represented in the State Senate by Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg Township) and in the General Assembly by Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough Township).

A Democrat, Jaffer is running for the seat that would be vacated by Zwicker, who is running for the State Senate. That seat is currently held by Bateman, who will not seek reelection in November, ending a 38-year career in public office. Bateman will serve out the remainder of his term serving the 16th Legislative district through January 2022. 

Jaffer, who most recently served as the mayor of Montgomery Township, becoming the first South Asian woman mayor in New Jersey and the first Pakistani American woman mayor in the U.S.

Talking to American Kahani as to why she’s chosen to run for state assembly, Jaffer said, “Public service is a calling. It is something I do for the sake of my community, particularly, if members of my community are asking me to represent them, which is basically what happened in this situation. Many members of the community reached out to me about running as they felt I would be a good representative for them.” 

Jaffer, who after much contemplation, decided to “give it a try” further adds, “I decided to run for public office because I didn’t see my values reflected in my elected officials. I’ve been a scholar and activist for some time. If you keep advocating to people who just don’t share your values, you eventually hit a wall. I also believe we shouldn’t ask others to do something we’re not willing to do ourselves. If I want people from diverse backgrounds to run for office, I should also be willing to do it myself.”

A visibly excited Jaffer, who has a lot of support from the South Asia community in New Jersey says: “As a member of the Assembly, I will leverage what I learned during my two terms as mayor of Montgomery Township to serve the people of LD-16. I will ensure prosperity for all through economic development, access to health care, and infrastructure improvements. I will be guided by the principles of economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, and environmental justice.” 

Pausing for a breath, Jaffer continues, “My platform is ultimately all about prosperity and justice for everyone who lives in this district. We have so many opportunities to focus on the strength of New Jersey and particularly central New Jersey, which has potential for agro tourism, investments and innovation, new technologies etc. I want to make sure the state government is supporting this as much as possible. Also, a lot of people clearly have been suffering and are suffering due to the pandemic. We must ensure we are supporting local businesses and local county governments and I think having that experience at the local level will really ensure the work that I’m doing at the state will affect people at the local level.”

Jaffer, who has a passion for civil and human rights, plans to bring her experience and energy as Mayor to the state assembly, says, “As mayor, I focused on improved engagement, communication, and trust within the community. My signature initiatives included: creating and implementing a robust crisis communications plan to help Montgomery Township maintain some of the lowest COVID-19 infection and fatality rates in New Jersey; facilitating a participatory planning and design process for the township’s new municipal center and library; responding to demands for racial justice by coordinating meetings for Black community members and youth activists with the Township’s police leadership to build trust and mutual understanding; and inaugurating a Youth Leadership Council to elevate the voices of young people who are energized to lead.”

Jaffer adds, “I will continue to work to ensure all the workers in the state, and immigrants, women, minority populations especially the black community in New Jersey are provided with the rights that they deserve. I will also make a pandemic response a major part of my platform – making sure essential workers and teachers are vaccinated and that we have public health experts continue to lead our Covid response, and do our bit to produce and distribute the vaccine in as equitable a manner as possible.”

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Talking about being the first South Asian woman to be mayor, a proud Jaffer says, “Representation matters and I was proud to encourage increased civic engagement and participation from diverse communities as the first South Asian woman to serve as mayor in New Jersey and the first Muslim woman to serve as mayor in the United States. If elected to Assembly, I would be the first Asian American woman as well as the first Muslim American to serve in the New Jersey Legislature. It is time we include all voices and perspectives in the policymaking process.” 

Jaffer has not approached, but may reach out to grassroots organizations like They See Blue who were front and center in campaigning for Biden/Harris and have been credited with being instrumental in electing them to the White House and helping turn many battleground states blue. She also plans to reach out to IMPACT, the leading political organization devoted to boosting the number of Indian Americans in public office by recruiting, training, funding, and electing talented Indian American candidates as well as supporting Indian American candidates nationwide.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and obtained her PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations with a secondary field in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality from Harvard University. She serves as a postdoctoral research associate in South Asian studies at Princeton University, where she teaches courses on South Asian, Islamic and Asian-American studies.


Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.

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