One step forward, two steps back.

That's the story of female representation in the New Jersey State Legislature, according to the Rutgers-based Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).

Women make up less than a third of the Legislature in the Garden State, and that's not expected to change in 2021. All 120 Senate and Assembly seats are on the ballot.

"New Jersey is not poised to make any great strides in the legislative elections for women candidates," Jean Sinzdak, CAWP associate director, told New Jersey 101.5. "I think our biggest challenge is that we are losing some incumbents."

Most notably on that "lost incumbent" list is Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, in the 37th district. She's retiring after decades in the Legislature, and two men are competing for her spot.

A record 84 women, 54 Democrats and 30 Republicans, are running for seats in the New Jersey Legislature. According to Sinzdak, though, women may gain just a couple more seats.

"We need a lot more of them to run to really make great strides," she said. "We're 25th in the nation for women's representation in state legislatures."

Currently, 37 out of 120 seats are held by women in New Jersey. Close to a decade ago, New Jersey was 10th in the nation for women's representation. The state hasn't lost a significant number of women in the years since; other states have just done a significantly better job getting women into open seats or keeping them there.

A handful of Asian-American women are running for a seat this year. No Asian or Pacific Islander (API) woman has ever been elected to the New Jersey Legislature. According to Sinzdak, "it seems very likely" that one or more of the API candidates will win seats, making history in the Garden State.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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