Three prominent Black Democratic Party leaders – Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr., former Democratic State Chairman John Currie and Monmouth County Democratic Chairman David Brown — have endorsed Nicholas Scutari’s bid to become the next Senate President.
The move comes as State Sen. Nia Gia Gill (D-Montclair) and some member of the Senate Legislative Black Caucus consider mounting a symbolic challenge to Scutari, who has a majority of votes succeed Steve Sweeney as Senate President, according to a New Jersey Globe tally of Democrats expected to be in the New Jersey State Senate next year.
“Senator Nicholas Scutari’s decades of legislative experience, understanding of the issues facing urban communities, and commitment to communities of color make him a strong choice to serve as Senate President,” Jones, Currie and Brown said in a statement released on Saturday.
The show of support for Scutari also sends a strong political message to Gill, who represents parts of Essex and Passaic counties in 34th legislative district. Gill is up for re-election in two years. Jones is also the Essex County Democratic Chairman and Currie is the Passaic County Democratic Chairman.
On Friday, a group of influential Black and Latino leaders called on Senate Democrats to choose a person of color as the Senate President, a post that has never been held be a non-white male.
“We also applaud the diverse team he has assembled to lead the Senate. Along with Governor Murphy and the newly installed leaders in the Legislature, we must reaffirm our commitment to our Black and Brown communities and our working families,” the three Democratic leaders said. “We must continue to fight for economic fairness and true social equity, and we must continue to break down the barriers that perpetuate systemic racism.
Scutari’s leadership team includes the state’s first Latina majority leader, Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), and Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), a black woman, as the Senate President Pro-Tempore. Another Latina senator, Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon), will serve as the Senate Majority Caucus Leader.
Additionally, Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), the only Asian American senator, will continue to serve as the Senate Majority Conference Leader.
The New Jersey Globe tally also puts two other Black lawmakers, State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delaran) and State Sen.-elect Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood), and State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Barrington) in Scutari’s camp. That gives Scutari the backing of seven of the ten people of color in the New Jersey Senate.
“We believe the diverse voices of this Senate leadership team are the right ones to keep moving our state towards these goals,” Jones, Currie and Brown stated.