With Nia Gill (D-Montclair) entering the race for Senate President, one of New Jersey’s most respected clergymen – and a close political ally of Gov. Phil Murphy – repeated his call for a woman of color to succeed Steve Sweeney as Senate President.
“The fact that we can end up with three white men running the state again is spitting in the face of Black and Latina women voters,” said Rev. Charles Boyer, founding director of Salvation and Social Justice.
Gill announced on Saturday that she would challenge frontrunner Nicholas Scutari for the top Senate leadership post.
“On Tuesday, the voters spoke, and with their voices, resoundingly rejected the business of politics as usual,” Gill said. “This past election resulted in a mandate for change from the voters.”
If Scutari wins – a New Jersey Globe tally puts him at 19 votes, 79% of the Senate Democratic caucus – the three most powerful post in state government will be occupied by white men: Gov. Phil Murphy, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Scutari.
While there have been two woman Assembly Speakers, two Black speakers and one Hispanic, the Senate President post has been held only by white men since 1845
Boyer, who has not endorsed any candidate in the race, says that Democrats have minority voters to thank for Murphy’s victory and Democratic majorities in the legislature.
“Women of color who thwarted a white backlash vote to protect — for the first time in over 40 years — the Governor’s seat and the Democratic majority in the Senate,” Boyer said. “The Senate Democrats need to recalibrate and make sure a woman of color gets the Senate presidency.”
But among the 19 votes secured by Scutari are seven of the ten Democratic senators of color.
Gill has only one other senator publicly in her camp: InsiderNJ reported that Ronald Rice (D-Newark) would support her candidacy.
By not issuing public endorsements, it appears that Black and Latino leaders who issued a statement on Friday calling for the next Senate President to be a person of color are planting their flag for the future, rather than getting behind a candidate against Scutari.
Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) is expected to become the first Latina to serve as Senate Majority Leader when the new Senate is sworn in on January 11. The leadership team is expected to include three other senators of color: Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) as president pro-tempore, Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) as majority conference leader, and Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) as Democratic caucus leader.
Sweeney, the longest-serving legislative leader in state history, trails Republican Edward Durr by 2,095 votes and has an extraordinarily narrow path to winning re-election in his South Jersey district.