New Jersey Senate President and Democrat Stephan Sweeney lost his re-election bid to Republican Edward Durr during last week’s general election. Sweeney served as president of the Senate since 2010 but
Black leaders now want a person of color to take his place.
Reports indicate that Democrat Sen. Nicholas Scutari has support to take the position, however, leaders say due to the Garden State being made of half of people of color, it’s time for leadership in Trenton to reflect that.
“The time is now,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer, founding director of Salvation and Social Justice. “Black people and people of color have waited long enough to have legislative leadership reflect the racial demographics of our state. New Jersey leads the nation in racial disparities across almost all indicators of well-being. We need leaders that truly understand what that means for our communities and are committed to policy solutions that address it.”
President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Ryan P. Haygood said leadership in New Jersey should reflect the increasingly diverse population.
“The 2020 Census shows that New Jersey is on the verge of becoming a majority people of color state, yet for years, the three most powerful people in New Jersey, each white men, have neither reflected that racial diversity nor confronted the lived experiences of Black and other people of color, who face some of the worst racial inequities in America,” he said.
The Black and Latino population combined in New Jersey make up around 45% of New Jersey’s population. Cities such as Camden, Jersey City and Newark have some of the state’s high numbers of diverse populations. Newark and Jersey City are the largest cities in the state.
“While unexpected, the outcome of Tuesday’s election presents an opportunity for people of color in New Jersey,” said Richard Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference. “There is lots of work to do to dismantle structural racism and address discrimination in our state, and that work must be led by people of color. Legislators must be honest about the racial makeup of our state and must select a leader that represents the voices and interests of our people.”
Pastor Steffie Bartley, northeastern regional director of the National Action Network and senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Elizabeth, is urging New Jerseyans to make history by electing a woman of color to serve as the senate president.
“It was the Black and Brown voters who successfully delivered the statehouse for Democrats, yet two leading positions are held by white men and the third position, state senate president, is headed in the same direction,” Bartley said. “Black and Brown voters have delivered the Statehouse for Democrats, but unfortunately in return we are still seated at the back of the bus.”