Republican truck driver defeats Sweeney in NJ election


“He was able to impose his will on legislation,” said Joe Vitale, a Democratic state senator. “He was a force of nature. So it will be a loss for those of us who respect and support him.

Mr. Sweeney was closely related to George E. Norcross, an insurance executive and powerful broker whose grip on southern New Jersey politics led many to view him as a shadow governor. The two remained close during the eight years of Mr. Murphy’s administration and former Governor Chris Christie. Without Mr Sweeney as the head of the Senate and with other Democratic losses in the southern state, Mr Norcross may no longer have the rock-solid control to shape state policy, though he does count still many legislators as allies.

In an interview, Mr Norcross described Mr Sweeney as “the Lyndon Johnson of the state legislature” who “brought order to chaos”. He said the sudden surge in Republican participation and the anger of Independents “happened with such distorting speed, that there was nothing that could have been planned or done, for it was not. not as if we don’t have the money available to do it ”.

He added that the Democratic Party will have to change, both in the state and in the country, to win back voters.

“The Democratic Party is going to have to, and the election candidates are going to have to, redefine themselves as fiscally responsible lawmakers who are going to spend government money wisely and not recklessly as described,” Norcross said. “They cannot be defined as wanting to finance the police or the socialists.”

The loss of Mr. Sweeney sets up a wide open race for his successor. Nicholas Scutari, a Democratic senator from northern New Jersey, is being seen as a possible candidate to replace Mr. Sweeney for the Senate leadership. Troy Singleton, a Democratic senator from southern New Jersey, was also mentioned as a possible replacement, among many other candidates.

Ed Dobzanski, 56, a union truck driver from Gibbstown, NJ, said he voted for Mr. Sweeney because of the Senate Speaker’s long-standing support for unions, but believed his rival’s victory reflects a public desire for change.

“I think this is a backlash to the fact that the same people have been in the same positions for a long time,” he said. “People just wanted change, they’re sick of career politicians.”

Jon Hurdle contributed reporting from West Deptford Township, NJ

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