Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (245369)
Credit: Contributed

Former New Jersey State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver visited Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack, N. J. Aug. 27, to explain why she wants to be lieutenant governor of New Jersey to the Bergen County National Association of the Advancement for Colored People.

“I certainly know how the legislature works,” said Oliver. “I certainly have relationships with 119 members of the state Legislature. And to run an effective government and to get things done, you need to cooperation in the state Senate, the general assembly and the executive branch.”

Nov. 17 is the date for New Jerseyans to vote for the next governor to replace incumbent governor, Chris Christie. The candidates for the New Jersey governor’s seat are Democratic nominee Phil Murphy and Republican nominee Kim Guadagno.

Guadagno’s running mate is Carlos Rendo, mayor of Woodcliff Lake. Murphy’s running mate is Oliver.

Oliver is the first African-American woman Assembly Speaker in New Jersey. She has more than a dozen years of legislative experience, serving in the lower house of the New Jersey Legislature since 2004. She also served on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1996 to 1999.

Born and raised in Newark, Oliver, 65, graduated from Weequahic High School, and then earned a degree in sociology at Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, the nation’s first degree-granting historically Black university.

Oliver received a master’s in urban planning and administration from Columbia University and put it to extensive use in Essex County, N.J., where she worked as an assistant administrator. She served on the East Orange Board of Education from 1994 to 2000 and as its president from 1999 to 2000.

In 1997, Oliver narrowly lost the Democratic mayoral primary in the City of East Orange to Robert L. Bowser, who served three terms. Oliver serves on both the Assembly’s Commerce and Economic Development Committee and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

According to an article on the Observer website, New Jersey’s constitution treats the lieutenant governor much like the U.S. Constitution treats the vice president. The powers of the governor’s office immediately fall to the lieutenant governor should the governor resign or be removed from office. The Observer article added that the constitution requires the lieutenant governor to keep a day job as head of a cabinet-level department or an executive branch agency, or to manage part of the governor’s office. However, the lieutenant governor has no powers beyond that.

One of the issues Oliver has talked about is taxes in New Jersey. Oliver said, “One of the things that Ambassador Murphy wants to focus on is finding alternative ways to fully finance our school district. That then takes the burden off you [taxpayers].”

Oliver added, “I learned earlier on from my activist days that government can indeed change life for people.”

The New Jersey election for governor is Nov. 17, 2017.