With election day approaching, members of the Democratic caucus have expressed interest in supporting Assemblymen Vincent Prieto and Lou Greenwald as majority leaders. That would mean Sheila Oliver would no longer serve as Assembly speaker. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) spoke with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the possible changes of leadership.
“It’s their house and they make the decisions,” said Sweeney. “I work well with Sheila and I have a wonderful relationship with Vinny and Lou, so I think we’ll have a good working relationship going forward.”
The gubernatorial race has caused divisions among Democrats, with some endorsing Republican Gov. Chris Christie for reelection instead of Democratic candidate Barbara Buono. Some have said this divide might have carried over into the Assembly since Democrats have expressed interest in making a change to leadership there. But Sweeney said that it’s nothing to read into.
“At one point Sheila was making statements she wasn’t even sure she wanted to run for speaker again,” said Sweeney. “So again, it’s their house and I’m going to work with whoever they put forward. … I’ve had a great working relationship with Sheila and you know when people say you fight a lot, we’re supposed to fight a lot over what we believe in. That makes a better product at the end of the day.”
Months ago, Sweeney’s priority was marriage equality. Now that same-sex marriages have begun in New Jersey and the case has gone through the courts, Sweeney calls it a civil rights victory. He also said that it is now the law of the land and that people can move on with their lives and get married without the interference the government once had.
Sweeney has been in discussions with Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Sen. Ray Lesniak and attorneys on what the next step on marriage equality should be — whether the case still needs legislation and whether or not they will seek an override of Christie’s veto. They’re still studying all of their options, according to Sweeney.
Meanwhile, groups who supported marriage equality are still seeking a veto override. Sweeney said that he is working with the organizations and the legislature to find a position that can strengthen marriage equality.
Sweeney is currently seeking reelection against Republican nominee Niki Trunk and in recent reports Sen. Tom Kean has made comments that Sweeney’s seat is one of the Republican Party’s top priorities. Sweeney said he’s going to work hard for his reelection and does not take anything for granted.
“Honestly, Tom’s given a whole lot more money than that from the Senate Republican majority and at the end of the day Tom’s going to have go explain to his members why he hasn’t been successful in winning any seats,” said Sweeney. “I look at every election that I’m 30 points down and I’m asking the voters to return me, so I’m going to work really hard and I don’t take anything for granted. But I think I’ve worked hard and I’ve demonstrated that I fight for my part of the state and that’s what you have to be. You have to be a senator before you can be Senate president.”
Sweeney also said that he does not see Christie’s influence or support of of the governor being a threat to Democrats. He doesn’t believe that will cost Democrats control of the Senate.