Fresh off her unanimous special convention victory to succeed former State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Newark), State Sen.-elect Renee Burgess (D-Irvington) said that her predecessor leaves a formidable legacy to live up to.
“Many people have said you can’t fill his shoes, and you know what, I can’t,” Burgess said. “I’m not going to try. But I damn sure will have a pair right next to yours, and with everybody in this room, I will do my very best to do what I need to do to move this 28th district forward.”
Rice departed the Senate on August 31 for health reasons, and Burgess emerged as his likely successor soon afterwards. Her victory makes her the first-ever senator from Irvington – and, notably, means that Newark will be down to just one state senator, something Burgess said she was mindful of.
“It’s all in working together, no matter how it turns out,” Burgess said of representing New Jersey’s largest city. “As long as we’re … loving each other, doing what’s right for the community, that’s all I care about right now.”
28th district Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Newark) considered challenging Beasley at today’s convention, a bid that would have likely been backed by Rice and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. But she ultimately decided against it, and Burgess said she still sees Tucker as a guiding light.
“Assemblywoman Cleo Tucker has been my mentor for years,” Burgess said. “She supported me, and I’ve supported her. I’m looking forward to meeting with her very soon.”
There’s still the possibility of a contested primary in 2023, though tonight’s cordial proceedings – Newark South Ward Councilman Pat Council, a Baraka ally, made the initial nomination of Burgess – indicate that may be unlikely.
State Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones Jr., an East Orange native who supported Burgess, said after her victory that he didn’t think Burgess’ hometown would stand in the way of delivering for all of her new constituents.
“It’s not about where you live, it’s about your heart and soul in service to the people in this district,” Jones said. “Renee Burgess will be that… I think the history is about to be written, and it looks really bright for the 28th district.”