Teresa Ruiz, who is finishing her fourteenth year in the legislature, will become the next Senate Majority Leader, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
Ruiz’s ascent to the post was first reported by POLITICO and is now positioned to become the first woman and first person of color to serve as Senate President if Steve Sweeney retires at some point. She is also the first Latina to serve in a top leadership post in either house.
“I want to thank Senator Weinberg for a distinguished career of accomplishments and for her decade-long partnership,” said Sweeney. “I welcome Senator Ruiz as the new Majority Leader. She possesses the experience, the skills and the passion to excel as a leader of the Senate Majority. We face real challenges ahead, but I am confident in the abilities of this leadership team to move the state forward.”
State Sen. Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) will also join the Senate leadership team.
Assistant Majority Leader Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), who had been viewed as a leading candidate for the post, decided not to be a candidate. She made that decision in consultation with Sweeney, who locked up support for another term last year and will be the longest-serving legislative leader in New Jersey history. Instead, she will replace Ruiz as President Pro-Tempore.
The Newark Democrat will become the first non-white majority leader of the New Jersey State Senate, and the third consecutive woman to hold the post.
The move to majority leader – Loretta Weinberg, who held the post for ten years, is not seeking re-election – will mean a new chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Ruiz was elected to the Senate in 2007 after Sharpe James gave up his seat. With the backing of the powerful North Ward Democratic organization, led by the late Steve Adubato, Ruiz won 58% in the general election against Newark City Councilman Luis Quintana and former Assemblyman William Payne (D-Newark). Both ran as independents.