The contest for Senate President between Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Nia Gill (D-Montclair) represents Gill’s second bid to lead the upper house: she mounted a last-minute challenged Richard Codey (D-Roseland) for the post when the Senate reorganized in 2004.
Gill sought to forge an alliance between Black lawmakers and the 18 Republican senators in a deal where the two parties would share power going into Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey’s third year in office.
Republicans had controlled the Senate for a decade until the 2001 election produced a 20-20 tie. Codey and Republican John O. Bennett III (R-Little Silver) served as co-Senate Presidents for two years until Democrats flipped two seats in 2003.
The genesis of the challenge was Gill’s perception that Codey had promised her the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Instead, the post went to a white male, John Adler (D-Cherry Hill). At the time, Gill insisted that Codey and McGreevey had made a deal with South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross – a concept that was tough to fathom then and impossible to believe now.
McGreevey’s spokesman, Micah Rasmussen, told PoliticsNJ in 2004 that Adler had overwhelming support for the post among Democratic senators. Adler and Bill Gormley (R-Margate) had served as co-Judiciary chairs in 2002 and 2003.
Most Republicans rejected the offer, but Gill did receive the votes of three GOP senators: Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park), Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) and Walter Kavanaugh (R-Somerville).
Still, Gill was able to pick up just four other Democratic votes – Ronald Rice (D-Newark), Sharpe James (D-Newark), Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence), and Glenn Cunningham (D-Jersey City) – and was only able to get eight votes in support of her senate presidency bid.
To win, Codey had to rely on receiving Republican votes at the reorganization session, including Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) and Joseph Kyrillos (R-Middletown), the GOP state chairman.
Before legislative redistricting in 2001 created a Senate seat for Gill, she had been the assemblywoman from the district Codey represented in the Senate.