There is an agreement in place to make Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) the next New Jersey Senate President, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed, with the Union County lawmaker securing enough votes to make him Steve Sweeney’s replacement.
Scutari would assume the senate presidency in January when Sweeney leaves office on January 11.
Sweeney, who trails Republican truck driver Edward Durr by nearly 2,100, has not yet acknowledged the loss of his own Senate seat. But it is now clear that his friends in the Senate Democratic Caucus have effectively conceded the 3rd legislative district race on his behalf.
State Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-Union City) is slated to replace Scutari as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman.
Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr., Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe, and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano met with Gov. Phil Murphy and Chief of Staff George Helmy early today. The candidates being discussed for the Senate Presidency were all acceptable to Murphy, who had a tense relationship with Sweeney over the last four years, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
A meeting of the Senate Black Caucus was tough for Scutari, who has fought – one almost literally – with Ronald Rice (D-Newark) over the marijuana legalization bill.
Later, Black and Latino leaders, including Rev. Charles Boyer, Latino Action Network President Christian Estevez, and New Jersey Institute for Social Justice President Ryan Haygood, issued a statement calling on Senate Democrats to name the state’s first Senate President of color.
“The 2020 Census shows that New Jersey is on the verge of becoming a majority people of color state, yet for years, the three most powerful people in New Jersey, each white men, have neither reflected that racial diversity nor confronted the lived experiences of Black and other people of color, who face some of the worst racial inequities in America,” Haygood said. “In this moment, we have an opportunity to change that.”
The 52-year-old Scutari has spent his entire adult life in public office. He was elected to the Linden Board of Education at age 25, and to the Union County Board of Freeholders at age 27.
He was 34 when he was elected to the State Senate in 2003 after the incumbent, Joseph Suliga, unexpectedly withdrew from the race in September. Scutari won 55% in a competitive race against Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks. He is also the Union County Democratic Chairman.
Scutari would become the first Senate President from Union County since Donald DiFrancesco left office 20 years ago.