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Essex County lawmaker set to make history by succeeding Weinberg as Democratic N.J. Senate leader – NJ.com

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, is pictured in 2019.NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
A veteran Essex County lawmaker is poised to succeed one of New Jersey’s most celebrated legislators as the state Senate’s majority leader — and make history in the process.
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz is the choice of top Democrats to take over for retiring Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg when the next legislative session begins in January, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney announced Thursday.
That will maker her the first Latina to serve in a top leadership post in either house of the New Jersey Legislature.
Sweeney, D-Gloucester, plans to serve a seventh two-year term as president of the Democratic-controlled Senate — the upper house of the Legislature, which passes state laws and votes on the state budget in Trenton.
Sweeney is already the longest-serving Senate president in state history, having held the post since 2010. He is also considered a possible contender for governor in 2025.
Ruiz, D-Essex, is currently the Senate president pro-tem. With the promotion to majority leader, she will become the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, after Sweeney.
Ruiz has served in the house since 2008 and is also chairwoman of the Senate’s education committee.
If Sweeney does run for governor in four years, this puts Ruiz in prime position to succeed him as Senate president. No woman or person of color has ever held that post.
Weinberg, the current Senate majority leader, is retiring after nearly 30 years in the Legislature.
”I want to thank Senator Weinberg for a distinguished career of accomplishments and for her decade-long partnership,” Sweeney said. “I welcome Senator Ruiz as the new Majority Leader. She possesses the experience, the skills and the passion to excel as a leader of the Senate Majority. We face real challenges ahead, but I am confident in the abilities of this leadership team to move the state forward.”
The other lawmakers chosen for the Senate’s Democratic leadership include:
Of course, all of these lawmakers must be first be re-elected by voters Tuesday before assuming these posts. All 120 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs next week, though all of these senators are incumbents heavily favored to win.
Should they win, it’s then up to the Senate’s Democratic caucus whether to approve them for the new leadership positions. The caucus will vote on the leaders Nov. 4, two days after Election Day.
“This is a diverse team of talented leaders who are dedicated to public service and determined to work together to address the needs of the people of New Jersey,” Sweeney said. “I am proud to serve with them and grateful for their teamwork as leaders of the Senate.”
Democrats control the Senate with 25 seats, compared to Republicans’ 14. They also control the Legislature’s lower house, the state Assembly, 52-28.
The party is expected to retain control in both houses Tuesday, though some seats may change hands.
Assembly Democrats, as well as Senate and Assembly Republicans, will also pick new leadership ahead of the new legislative session next year.
There will be new Republican leaders in each house. The Senate’s minority leader, Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, is leaving the Legislature to mount another bid for Congress next year. A few lawmakers are in the mix to succeed him, including Steven Oroho of Sussex County, Joseph Pennachio of Morris County, and Robert Singer of Ocean County.
The Assembly’s minority leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, is running Tuesday for Kean’s seat in the Senate. Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, is the favorite to succeed him.
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Brent Johnson may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @johnsb01.
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