The Assembly Democrats this morning officially affirmed Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) to succeed Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) as speaker of the General Assembly.
The caucus also backed Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6) for another term as Majority Leader.
The vote to replace Prieto with Coughlin occurred by acclimation.
“There were no fireworks,” a source told InsiderNJ.
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) received unanimous support to return as conference leader, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) will be back as Speaker Pro Tem.
And as first reported by InsiderNJ, Assemblywoman Eliana
Pintor Marin (D-29) will succeed Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) as chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.
To see Coughlin in action on his first day as speaker-elect, watch this video.
In a statement issued after the caucus vote, Coughlin vowed to make working class New Jerseyans the Assembly’s top priority by growing the economy.
“One way we can help working middle-class New Jerseyans is to find new ways to grow our economy,” said the speaker-elect. “That’s why I will create a new standing committee – the Science, Technology and Innovation Committee that will create legislation designed to put New Jersey at the forefront of emerging industries, utilizing our universities, high schools and business leaders.”
Coughlin, of Woodbridge, will become the 216th Assembly Speaker in January and preside over the 80-member General Assembly. Democrats have held the majority since 2002 and are expected to hold a 54-28 majority in the 2018-19 legislative session. That will be the largest Democratic majority since 1978.
“I am extremely grateful for the support of my colleagues and am honored by their confidence in me at this crucial time,” Coughlin said. “We have a lot of work ahead to improve our state after the last eight years, and I look forward to working with Gov.-elect Murphy, Senate President Sweeney and a unified Democratic Party to stand strong for middle-class New Jerseyans. I thank Speaker Prieto for his great service, and am excited by this opportunity to play a key role in building a better future for our state. The voters showed their confidence in Democrats, and I can assure everyone that we will be working hard in The People’s House to continue earning that confidence.”
An attorney, Coughlin received his bachelor of sciences degree from St. John’s University and his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law. He began his public service by serving on the South Amboy school board from 1983 to 1987. He then was elected to the South Amboy Borough Council in 1987, serving until 1993.
He became a Municipal Court judge in Edison Township in 2005, serving until 2009, when he joined the Assembly, representing the 19th Legislative District, which includes Carteret, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy and Woodbridge in Middlesex County.
Coughlin has been serving as chairman of the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. He has also sponsored efforts to create new manufacturing jobs, make higher education more affordable, turn polluted sites into redevelopment areas and help local governments control property taxes by saving on health care costs, shared services and purchasing. He also worked to help promote the job-creating microbrewery industry in New Jersey.
He will be serving his fifth term in the Assembly as of January.
Coughlin has also been heavily involved in community efforts, serving as volunteer fireman in South Amboy from 1976 to 1982 and on the executive board of the Fords Clara Barton Baseball League from 1996 to 2010.
His annual bowling event in partnership with the Raritan Bay Medical Center Foundation and the Middlesex Water Company raises money for local food pantries. Since 2010, it has raised more than $140,000.
He and his wife have three sons.
“This has been a difficult time in our state and nation, but I’m humbled by the confidence shown in me by my Assembly colleagues as we move forward here in New Jersey,” Coughlin said. “We have a great leadership team, a great new governor and an amazingly talented – and expanded – Assembly caucus. I couldn’t be more thrilled by the opportunity ahead. Amid all the turmoil of the last eight years and all the ongoing concern coming out of Washington, New Jersey will be a shining example of what it means to reject the politics of divisiveness and instead do the right thing for working families.”
The Assembly’s reorganization is set for Jan. 9.
“I intend to be a Speaker who leads by consensus and who implements strong communication with my members, so that every voice is heard, regardless of region,” Coughlin said. “State government is three prongs and I will ensure that the General Assembly is treated as a co-equal house.”