Senate President Steve Sweeney, the longest-serving legislative leader in New Jersey history, conceded his defeat in his bid for re-election to the South Jersey Senate seat he held for 20 years before losing it to Republican Edward R. Durr, a truck driver and unabashed conservative, in last week’s general election.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who frequently sparred with Sweeney but counted on him to move his agenda through the legislature, praised the outgoing Senate leader.
“Senate President Steve Sweeney has had an incredible career, one that is incomparable in state history. He has been a partner in the vast majority of the progress we’ve made in the last four years, and without him New Jersey would undoubtedly be a worse place for working families,” Murphy said. “He will remain a friend to me and Tammy, and I wish him nothing but the best as he pivots to the next phase of his career.”
The following is the text of Sweeney’s statement:
“The results of Tuesday’s election are in, all votes have been fairly counted, and I, of course, accept the results.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Durr and wish him the best of luck.
“The people of the 3rd Legislative District are the best in New Jersey.
It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the people of the 3rd District in the State Senate and to serve as President of the Senate.
“I have had the opportunity to work with extraordinary people and I am proud of what we accomplished, for our legislative district, for South Jersey and for the state.
“You all know that I got into politics after my daughter Lauren was born premature, weighing just two pounds with developmental disabilities. I was able to stay with her in the hospital for two months because I had a good union job with good benefits.
“Twenty years later, I was able to make sure that all New Jersey parents had the same opportunity to be with their loved ones in their time of greatest need when the paid family leave bill I sponsored was signed into law.
“Providing for the needs of the disabilities community has been a focal point of my entire career in public life, and I am proud that this year we were finally able to make sure that the State met its statutory obligation to provide over 85% of the cost of Extraordinary Special Education for students with the greatest need, saving money for property taxpayers.
“We saved our three nuclear power plants in Salem County, preserving jobs while averting greenhouse gas emissions.
“We made South Jersey the center of the nation’s offshore wind industry by bringing wind energy manufacturing to the Paulsboro port and establishing the New Jersey Wind Port on Delaware Bay.
“We reorganized higher education, turning Rowan University into a first-class university with not one, but two medical schools– the School of Osteopathic Medicine and the new Cooper Medical School in Camden.
“Rowan’s partnership with Rowan College at Gloucester, Rowan College at Cumberland and Rowan College at Burlington, and the 3-Plus-1 model and stackable credentials certificate programs they created, are a national model on how to lower the costs of a college degree.
“We overhauled the state’s school funding formula to increase aid to growing districts like Kingsway Regional and Swedesboro-Woolwich and created a school regionalization program that will improve the quality of education and may lead to Salem County becoming the state’s first countywide school district.
“We created a countywide police force that has restored community policing in Camden, pulled Atlantic City back from the brink of bankruptcy, and brought new investments into the cities that should be the twin anchors of the South Jersey economy.
“We enacted a $15 minimum wage with a cost-of-living adjustment and provided all workers with earned sick leave. We protected prevailing wage and restored funding for women’s healthcare. We legalized marijuana and enacted bail reform.
“It took 20 years and bitter battles, but we stabilized a state pension system that was veering toward bankruptcy and saved billions of dollars in healthcare and prescription benefit costs.
“Too often, the way policy is discussed is about programs and process — vote totals, and who is winning and losing politically. We do not discuss the impact these programs are having on real people or how they fit into a coherent vision of what New Jersey can and must be.
“But looking at these accomplishments with a little distance, which this last week has provided me, you can see the outlines of what has always motivated me.
“I believe we have an absolute, moral obligation to assist those who cannot care for themselves. That means supporting our children and youth with fair education funding and job training. It means securing rights and opportunities for everyone.
“I believe that there is honor in working, but work must be fair to workers and employers. I have fought to create more jobs that pay good wages and provide secure retirements. I am proud that I have always focused on expanding opportunity in every community and for every group.
“And, of course, because I believe that government must be able to afford the things it needs to do, I have focused on ensuring that limited taxpayer resources are used effectively.
“I have never seen government do everything right, but I believe it has to do the most important things right.
“What voters said in this election is that New Jersey is a state filled with hard-working people who want to be able to provide for their families. As leaders, we need to speak directly to the concerns of all voters.
“I plan to keep speaking to those concerns. I plan to remain fully involved in public affairs in New Jersey.
“I will keep speaking out for fiscal responsibility and reform.
“I will be a strong voice for unity, for economic opportunity, and for competitiveness and growth.
“Most of all, I will be a champion for the enactment of policies that make New Jersey affordable for young people to be able to live here, for young couples to buy homes, for working families to make ends meet with enough left over to go on vacation, and for retirees to be able to stay in their houses near their loved ones.
“New Jerseyans want this to be a place where all residents can afford to live and thrive.
“I will be speaking from a different podium, but I promise you: I will be just as loud and just as forceful a voice for change.”
This story was updated at 3:11 PM with comment from Murphy.