Two politically influential Black ministers are pushing for the nomination of Jamel Semper as the next U.S. Attorney from New Jersey.
“It is time for an African American to be nominated as the U.S. Attorney in this state,” said Rev. Ronald Slaughter, the senior pastor at the Saint James AME Church in Newark. “As a person of color, we just want our fair shot at the American dream. New Jersey has never had a black person to serve as U.S. Attorney. The time is now and there are many that are qualified to do so.”
Semper also has the backing of the Rev. Dr. Charles F. Boyer, the pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Woodbury and the founder of Salvation and Social Justice, a grass roots organization that is a leading voice on social justice issues.
“Given the various issues that involve race and the awakening of many of the persistent historical barriers Black people have faced, now is the time,” Boyer said.
One of the leading candidates for the post, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, withdrew her name from consideration on Wednesday night.
Semper, an Assistant U.S. Attorney who currently serves as chief of the Organized Crime and Gang section, was one of seven names on a short list first reported by the New Jersey Globe in January. With Suarez out and Henry Klingeman no longer being considered, the list is now down to Semper and four former federal prosecutors: Philip Sellinger, Lee Vartan, Jenny Kramer and Ricardo Solano, Jr.
The White House has begun vetting Sellinger, a top attorney at Greenberg Traurig, the New Jersey Globe has learned, but it’s possible other candidates have entered the vetting phase as well.
The senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey traditionally fills the post if their party is in control of the White House, in consultation with the junior senator.
Those senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, have not commented on their choices.
Slaughter reiterated his strong support of Menendez.
“We want to be clear, we love our Senator and support him as well as Senator Booker,” Slaughter said. “We know it’s a hard job and someone’s choice will not get the nomination from the senior senator.
Still, Slaughter hopes that Menendez, who made history as the first Hispanic to win statewide office in New Jersey, will seek to break the glass ceiling for the state’s Black community.
“We just want him to make history again by nominating a African American as U.S. Attorney,” stated Slaughter. “That would be historic especially since we can’t even get the George Floyd bill passed in this country.”
The push to see Semper as the U.S. Attorney comes nearly 100 years after Oliver Randolph became the first Black to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.
Randolph, the grandson of a slave who bought his freedom around the start of the Civil War, became a prominent Newark attorney and became the state’s second Black assemblyman. He sponsored New Jersey’s anti-lynching laws.
Just seven months, Randolph left the legislature to take the post at the U.S. Attorney’s office. In 1947, he was the only African American member of the New Jersey Constitutional Convention.