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Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker. (Photo: Assembly Majority Office).

Tucker wants Rice’s seat, but will wait to see if Democrats want her

Eight-term assemblywoman says she’s prepared to make Senate bid

By David Wildstein, August 23 2022 4:04 pm

Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Newark) wants to move up to the State Senate but is waiting to find out if she is the choice of party leaders for the open 28th district seat before she jumps in the race.

“I’m willing to take it if offered,” Tucker said.  “First I’m going to find out if I’m offered it.”

The seat will open up at the end of the month when the resignation of State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) becomes effective.  The longest serving Black lawmaker in New Jersey history, Rice is retiring on August 31 due to health reasons, ending a nearly 36-year stay in the New Jersey Senate due to health reasons.

Tucker, who is in her fifteenth year as an assemblywoman, told the New Jersey Globe that she won’t launch her campaign until she has some idea if she will be the choice of Essex Democrats.

“I haven’t done anything yet,” she said.

Her longtime running mate, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley), said today that he would like to see Tucker get the seat.   Caputo said he will not run and thinks the seat should go to a person of color in a Black-majority district.

No other candidates have entered the race to succeed Rice.  Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James told the new Jersey Globe on Monday that he had not ruled out returning to the State Senate, where he had served from 1999 to 2008.

The chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Tucker and Caputo were first elected in 2007 after defeating incumbents Craig Stanley (D-Irvington) and Oadline Truitt (D-Newark) in the Democratic primary.

That year, Essex County Democrats declined to back the incumbents for re-election.

Rice, Stanley and Truitt mounted off-the-line primary campaigns against the organization backed candidates: Essex County Freeholder Bilal Beasley for Senate, and Tucker and Caputo for Assembly.

Caputo was the top vote-getter with 6,092 votes, followed by Tucker with 5,942.  Tucker defeated Stanley by 127 votes, with Truitt running 350 votes behind Stanley.    Rice won his primary by 475 votes, 42%-48%.

Tucker is the widow of Donald K. Tucker, a legendary Newark political leader who was elected to the city council in 1974 and to the State Assembly in 1997.  He was holding both offices when he died in 2005 and was re-elected to the Assembly posthumously.

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