Assemblyman Sterley Stanley, First South Asian from Middlesex County, joins New Jersey General Assembly


Ajay Ghosh
New Jersey

New Jersey’s Asian population has experienced remarkable growth within the last decade. According to census data released earlier this month, about 1.05 million New Jersey residents, slightly more than 11% of the state’s population, identified as either partially or entirely Asian. This striking 44% increase from the 725,726 who identified as Asian in the 2010 census prompts the question of whether the state government has changed to reflect new demographics. In fact, Asian candidates would need to win seven more seats in the Assembly and two or three more in the Senate for their representation to align with the state’s demographics.

Nonetheless, there are those in the state government already leading the way to greater representation. Most recently, Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-Middlesex) joined State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) as the third Indian American to be elected to the state legislature.

Stanley won his 18th District Assembly seat in a Special Election in January 2021, becoming the first South Asian to represent Middlesex County in the New Jersey Legislature. Stanley defeated fellow Democrat, Edison Councilman Joe Coyle by a vote of 189-136, a 58%-42% margin, according to the Middlesex County Democratic Organization. The seat became vacant when former Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin resigned after being sworn in as the new Middlesex County Clerk.

Endorsed by the Middlesex County Democratic Organization, Assemblyman Stanley was sworn in on January 27th, 2021. Stanley serves as a member of the Assembly Committee On Law And Public Safety and as a member of the Assembly Committee On Health.

“I am honored to serve the residents of the 18th district and eager to roll up my sleeves to address the needs of our wonderful, diverse district and state,” Stanley said in a statement after being sworn in as an Assemblyman. “The events of the past year have shown us the danger of divisive forces, but they have also shown us the strength and necessity of collaboration. Truly listening to one another will allow us to better understand the issues and each other and to develop and implement nuanced, detailed solutions that reflect every community’s situation.”

Stanley won the Democratic primary this past June and will run in the general election in November 2021 for a full two-year term. The 18th District has the highest percentage of Asian Americans of any legislative district in the state, and Middlesex, Stanley’s home county, has the largest Asian population in the state, at 237,945 residents. In addition to East Brunswick and Edison, the 18th District includes Helmetta, Highland Park, Metuchen, South Plainfield And South River – all Middlesex municipalities.

Stanley was born in the State of Karnataka, India and immigrated to Brooklyn, NY at a young age.  For the last 21 years, he has called East Brunswick his home. While living there, he has worked in the finance industry as a title and life insurance agent, as well as a mortgage broker. Stanley is a proud father of three children and has been actively involved in the Middlesex County community, previously serving as a Trustee of the Lighthouse Christian Fellowship Church in East Brunswick and as President of the Fox Meadow Condominium Association.

During his time as Councilman, Stanley’s efforts to help establish a redevelopment agency were well received by the public.  Through town halls and other outreach efforts, he has always encouraged residents to actively participate in the process and prioritized working with them. In another collaborative initiative, he worked with the East Brunswick Police Department to strengthen dialogue around cultural diversity within the community. Stanley is generally committed to “establishing open lines of communication” and to strengthening the relationships between state legislators and each town’s administration, municipal chairs and committee persons. He intends to “always be available to listen to their issues and provide support,” hoping to “work at the state level to promote transparency and community engagement.”

“The issues we confront are not simple, but I deeply believe that they are not insurmountable if we understand their complexity and commit to respecting the perspectives that our fellow community members and leaders bring to the table.”

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