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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Statements on Steve Sweeney’s concession

By David Wildstein, November 10 2021 1:27 pm

GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY

“Senate President Steve Sweeney has had an incredible career, one that is incomparable in state history. He has been a partner in the vast majority of the progress we’ve made in the last four years, and without him New Jersey would undoubtedly be a worse place for working families. He will remain a friend to me and Tammy, and I wish him nothing but the best as he pivots to the next phase of his career.”

U.S. SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ

“The people of Camden, Gloucester and Cumberland counties and greater South Jersey could not have had a stronger advocate in their corner for the past 20 years than Senate President Steve Sweeney. While I was hoping for a different outcome, I take comfort in knowing that Steve’s many contributions to our state will continue to benefit New Jersey families for many years to come.

“Over the course of the past two decades, I have worked with Senator Steve Sweeney to secure major federal investments in infrastructure projects he has championed throughout South Jersey, from revitalizing downtown Camden to modernizing our ports in Paulsboro and Salem, to making major roadways like 295 safer for commuters. And I will never forget how hard Steve fought to pass the Sandy Bill of Rights for families displaced by Superstorm Sandy even if his heroic efforts met the veto of former Governor Chris Christie.

“Steve and I may have hailed from opposite corners of our state, but one thing we have always shared in common is a commitment to never forgetting where we came from or who we are fighting for. Prior to running for office, Steve Sweeney was a labor leader who stood up for the rights and dignity of working people and I know that even after he leaves the State Senate, he will continue to serve our communities and be a strong advocate for New Jersey’s middle class.

“Though his defeat is a loss for the New Jersey legislature and our state, I wish Steve and his family the best and look forward to working together in the future.”

U.S. CORY BOOKER

“For 20 years, including his tenure as the longest-serving Senate President in New Jersey history, Steve Sweeney has fought tirelessly in the legislature to advocate for our state’s most vulnerable residents. From strengthening protections and opportunities for those who live with disabilities, to his work expanding workers rights to earn fair wages and good working conditions, to helping Democrats get elected across the state, his career has been defined by distinguished public service and improving the lives of all New Jerseyans. I honor his enduring contributions and lasting legacy to the Garden State.”

SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN PAUL SARLO

“Senator Sweeney has a record of responsibility on fiscal issues that is unparalleled among state leaders.  I worked with him to bring fiscal reforms to state finances that have saved money for taxpayers, reduced expenses for state government and made public services more efficient. We put the state’s pension system on firm footing, which will result in long-term benefits for everyone. We also worked effectively to promote economic growth with an emphasis on jobs and expanded opportunities, especially for small businesses, which are vital to communities across the state. Senator Sweeney’s influence and impact will be long lasting.”

REP. BILL PASCRELL, JR. 

“For 20 years, the working men and women of our great state have had a dependable friend in Senate President Steve Sweeney. Steve is so effective because he is a working man himself. It is a testament to Steve’s skill that a building trade union member who’s worked with his bare hands rose to such prominence in the highest halls of government. His run of service makes Steve the Mike Schmidt of Trenton, both in quality and quantity of work. A valuable partner to Governor Murphy, together they fought to create jobs and opportunity and make tremendous progress in our state. Our state’s growth is a direct product of Steve’s guidance. The loss of Steve’s leadership will be felt most profoundly among those for whom Steve has toiled for every day of his career: the impoverished, the jobless, the sick, the aged, and disabled New Jerseyans. But Steve’s voice and spirit are too strong to believe we won’t see his leadership again soon.”

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER LORETTA WEINBERG

“Steve Sweeney was the most consequential Senate President in New Jersey history, and my partner in pushing through a broad array of important and progressive legislation.  Senator Sweeney fought for the restoration of funding for women’s healthcare, the $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, earned sick leave, pay equity, workplace protection against harassment and discrimination, marijuana legalization, bail reform and other social justice issues. He had a unique ability to marshal coalitions of moderates and liberals to get things done, and he and I shared a stubborn willingness to fight for what we believed in, regardless of the political consequences. Neither of us is going away.”

NEW JERSEY NAACP PRESIDENT RICHARD SMITH

“Senate President Sweeney has been a true partner in some of the most important social justice reforms of our time.  From bail reform to expungement, the legalization of marijuana, fair housing and efforts to make police departments more diverse, Steve was the driving force in the Legislature. These reforms would not have happened without him. He always valued my input and always respected the perspective of the NAACP and those we represent. His departure from the Senate will be a real loss, but the progress he was so instrumental in achieving will be long lasting.”

SENATE PRESIDENT PRO-TEMPORE TERESA RUIZ

“I am incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to work with Senate President Sweeney, who has not only been an ally but also a friend. He had the confidence to appoint me as Chair of the Education Committee, and later, as a partner on his leadership team.  For the last decade he has been a strong voice for our caucus and a tireless advocate, fighting to ensure fair funding for our schools, adequate services for students with disabilities and more than anything equitable opportunities for the children of our state. Together, we have advanced countless pieces of legislation to improve the lives of families in New Jersey which would not have been possible without Senator Sweeney’s steadfast leadership and dedication to serving the residents of this state.”

SENATE ASSISTANT MAJORITY LEADER SANDRA CUNNINGHAM

“For the past several years, New Jersey has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform, which would not have been possible without the support and advocacy of Senate President Steve Sweeney.  It has been a privilege to serve on his leadership team and have him in my corner as we fought to ban the box, enact bail reform, improve reentry services and expand expungement. Throughout his tenure, he has undoubtedly helped to make New Jersey a better, more just place to live for everyone who calls it home.”

STATE SENATOR TROY SINGLETON

“Steve has dedicated the past two decades of his life to representing working men and women in the Legislature.  In addition, he has been a forceful advocate on behalf individuals who have special needs and for the entire South Jersey region. His unwavering leadership, sharp policy acumen, and willingness to compromise have made his tenure as Senate President one of the most productive. In addition to being my colleague, he has more importantly been my friend for more than 20 years, and I will certainly miss seeing him in the Senate Chamber and at our Caucus table.”

STATE SENATOR NELLIE POU

“Senate President Sweeney has been a strong and conscientious leader not only in our Legislature but across our state.  It has been my privilege to work beside him and to witness firsthand his extreme sensibility in making sure first-class programs and services were made available to residents with disabilities, and for those in need of mental health services. I have also seen his leadership when it came to passage of the Economic Recovery Act, which has gone a long way toward helping to revitalize communities in great need, such as those in my district in the City of Paterson. Steve came to our city, and toured its neighborhoods, walked its streets and saw its vacant properties, all in order to see exactly what was needed to provide these communities with more housing, health care and opportunity. I am going to miss his friendship, and our great working relationship, that includes a mutual respect that’s so important in the work that we do. We might not always have agreed, but I always knew that he respected my opinion and was willing to hear me out. He not only led, he led with sensibility and empathy. To me that is the mark of a true leader.”

STATE SENATOR NELLIE POU

“Senate President Sweeney has been a strong and conscientious leader not only in our Legislature but across our state.  It has been my privilege to work beside him and to witness firsthand his extreme sensibility in making sure first-class programs and services were made available to residents with disabilities, and for those in need of mental health services. I have also seen his leadership when it came to passage of the Economic Recovery Act, which has gone a long way toward helping to revitalize communities in great need, such as those in my district in the City of Paterson. Steve came to our city, and toured its neighborhoods, walked its streets and saw its vacant properties, all in order to see exactly what was needed to provide these communities with more housing, health care and opportunity. I am going to miss his friendship, and our great working relationship, that includes a mutual respect that’s so important in the work that we do. We might not always have agreed, but I always knew that he respected my opinion and was willing to hear me out. He not only led, he led with sensibility and empathy. To me that is the mark of a true leader.”

THE ARC OF NEW JERSEY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR THOMAS BAFFUTO

“No one has done more for the disability community than Steve Sweeney. I know this was personal to Steve, but he fought for the rights of everyone with a developmental disability, the needs of the families and the ability of organizations and their workers to provide the support they need. He elevated this issue to the forefront of policy makers and the public’s conscience. He even established the Legislative Disability Caucus to ensure that the issues of importance to the disability community are addressed on an ongoing basis. On a personal level, Steve and his daughter Lauren have become personal friends. These are friendships I will always value.”

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER

“A great leader, who touched the lives of so many people in our great State, will be leaving the New Jersey Senate. Like Steve himself, his years at the helm of the Senate have been larger than life, and his presence will be missed from Warren County to Camden County. Steve has been an ideas machine, promoting common sense, pragmatism, and Democratic values. There wasn’t a bill or a policy that didn’t have his imprimatur, and that he didn’t help navigate to passage.

Steve is just a regular guy, even with all he has accomplished. I have been lucky and proud to call Steve a good friend. Like so many others, he has always been there for me, and for that, I will always be grateful. We will all miss Steve’s willingness to fight tough, driven by deep compassion, for those who need it the most — for hardworking Jersey families, especially for his brothers and sisters in labor. After all, that’s what ironworkers do.

This is not the last of Steve Sweeney, there are plenty of chapters left to write in his book, and I look forward to working closely with him in the years ahead. On behalf of everyone in New Jersey’s Fifth District, I want to thank Steve for his grit, determination, and all he has done for the people of our State.”

BERGEN COUNTY COMMISSIONER TOM SULLIVAN

“Today was a difficult day not only for me personally, but for the State of New Jersey. Senator Steve Sweeney has been a friend of mine for years. In that time, I have gotten to know him in ways that much of the public never did. He exudes an unmatched compassion as THE champion advocate for disability services in New Jersey. The progress made for the uniquely abled in our state under his leadership cannot be overstated and is a testament to his great character.  There was no fiercer advocate than him for the residents of this state and particularly the third legislative district. His presence in the statehouse will surely be missed.  I would also like to thank Steve for all of his years of hard work and dedication representing the men and woman of organized labor. We have known no greater friend on the state level than him and the legacy he leaves behind in this area is something that can never be replaced, and quite frankly, may never be surpassed. Thankfully, I know this is not goodbye. Steve will always be a part of the Democratic Party and Organized Labor in New Jersey. He will continue to contribute to making both of those things better, just as he has for the past two decades. He has been a true friend to me and I will always value that friendship.  I wish him nothing but success moving forward.”

ASSEMBLY MINORITY LEADER JON BRAMNICK

“I thank Steve for his decades of service to New Jersey and for his friendship. He was a force in New Jersey politics, but also a true friend across the aisle. I wish him only the best.”

ASSEMBLY SPEAKER CRAIG COUGHLIN

 “Working with Senate President Sweeney over the last four years, Steve has become a good friend. I saw up close the kind of legislator and strong leader that he is: a fierce and compassionate advocate for our shared Democratic values, and a true champion for individuals with disabilities.

“In partnership, we accomplished a tremendous amount for the working families of this state from raising the minimum wage to expanding and modernizing paid family leave, and negotiating a series of fiscal responsibility reforms like our record $6.9 billion payment into the public pension this year and paying down billions in debt.

“He was a real partner in our work to rebalance the State’s school funding formula to make it more equitable for our students, to make schools safer and improve vo-tech opportunities through the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, and in formulating the Economic Recovery Act of 2020. Alongside him, we swiftly responded to the pandemic becoming the first state to pivot to remote voting that kept our state moving.

“With a 12-year history-making run as Senate President, Steve leaves his mark as a leader that deeply cares for the State of New Jersey. While his presence will be missed in the Senate come January, his voice will not be absent from Trenton.”

SENATE MINORITY LEADER-DESIGNATE STEVE OROHO

“When I first came to Trenton, I immediately struck up a rapport with Steve Sweeney because our districts are very similar and we shared a focus on making New Jersey more competitive. Our working relationship has been an active one and I have been proud to work with Steve on many important issues. But what I’m even more proud of is just being able to call him a friend.”

REP. DONALD PAYNE, JR.

“I also want to take a moment to acknowledge President Steve Sweeney, who was not only my friend, but has the distinction of being the longest serving President of the New Jersey Senate. He has been a true champion for working families across the state.  I have had the pleasure of working with Senator Scutari for years and found him to be a dedicated public servant, thoughtful and open to new ideas. He has been an effective leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I believe his years of service representing Union County have really helped to prepare him to be a good leader of the state Senate.”

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