Newark Democratic headquarters were packed and sweltering as a who’s who of North Jersey Democrats joined party faithful to hear Phil Murphy announce Sheila Oliver as his running mate.
“Being governor is important, but even as governor, if we’re fortunate enough to get there, I will only be one person. To be successful, I need will need a team that joins me not just in a way of thinking, but in a way of acting,” said Murphy. “A team that I believe must represent not only the very best of our state, but also mirror the great diversity of our state, the most diverse state in the United States. And today I am making the first selection to this team. I have asked Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver to be my running mate.”
Oliver is an Essex County assemblywoman who served as assembly speaker from 2010 to 2014.
Both she and Murphy were tough on Republican candidate Kim Guadagno and her ties to Gov. Chris Christie.
“Our state is in crisis, our economy is broken, our people have lost faith, Chris Christie and Kim Guadagno have lost touch,” Murphy said. “It is time for a governor and a lieutenant governor who have your back, and we will. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor and privilege to introduce to you the next lieutenant governor of the state of New Jersey, Sheila Oliver.
Oliver spoke of the honor she felt in being selected.
“Phil, here is my commitment to every family in this state,” she said. “I will work shoulder to shoulder with you to create an economy in New Jersey that is fairer for all of New Jersey.”
Oliver spoke of New Jerseyans as tenacious, gritty and hard-working.
“I’ve met them from every corner — from Cape May up to the Warren-Sussex County line,” she said. “Our people are yearning for change and Phil Murphy, with me as his lieutenant governor, will forge ahead and create the change dynamic that New Jerseyans are yearning for.”
In this room, Oliver had mainly admirers.
“She’s a cross-cultural candidate that just doesn’t energize the base, but energizes New Jersey up and down 95, across 80,” said Essex County Democratic Chair LeRoy Jones.
“She’s my sister, she’s my friend, she’s seasoned, she knows this state,” John Currie, chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, said of Oliver.
“I’m thrilled,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. “It’s not only great for Essex, it’s great for the state of New Jersey. I think the experience she has is on every level of government. I think she’s going to make a great partner with Phil.”
“Sheila Oliver is a personal friend, an ally and her and I on every issue have been together,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. “She is a great pick, and she is the total package.”
Guadagno gave NJTV News her reaction to Murphy’s choice.
“I think the real issue in New Jersey isn’t who the lieutenant governor is, it’s who’s going to raise taxes, and Phil Murphy has promised to do that,” said Guadagno. “So I don’t see how Sheila can help the people she wants to help, and I know Sheila, she’s a quality person. But if she really wants to help people in New Jersey, she should lower costs of living in New Jersey, and with Phil Murphy’s promises that’s never going to happen and it’s a shame.”
The Republican candidate has selected Cuban-born mayor Carlos Rendo of Woodcliff Lake to be her running mate.
Guadagno has served as lieutenant governor and secretary of state simultaneously.
Asked if Oliver would do the same, Murphy replied, “We haven’t had a specific discussion about that.” He added, “I think we’re both very open mined but what we have had a discussion about is that this job will be a job of major substance, that the lieutenant governor, Sheila will be driving a big portion of our agenda.”
When asked about whether she wanted the role, Oliver replied, “This is something I wanted to do, to support Phil Murphy as he revamps the environment in Trenton.”
Democrat Murphy is trying to energize African-American voters with his choice of a running mate, while Republican Guadagno is reaching out to Hispanics with hers. Sheila Oliver is a known quantity in state politics. Carlos Rendo is unknown, but more will be known when Guadagno formally introduces him on Thursday.