InsiderNJ’s 2023 African American Power List in Honor of Black History Month
Sitting in King’s Restaurant on Clinton Avenue, South Ward Councilman Pat Council earlier this month told InsiderNJ that Gov. Phil Murphy made a mistake when he selected non-Newarkers to sit on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, considering Murphy’s skin-of-the-teeth 2021 victory over Republican Jack Ciattarelli, which required significant voter output from Newark.
If Newark and Essex (29,000 M to 3,140 C; and 132,520 M to 45,542 C, respectively) hadn’t shown up for the Democratic incumbent, Murphy would have lost.
And yet, when it came time for Murphy to select appointments to the powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he selected staffers Joe Kelly and George Helmy (in addition to Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage), supplying the necessary bodies to re-up the chairmanship of Kevin O’Toole, a former Republican state senator.
It didn’t sit well with Council, South Ward Democratic chairman and a key ally of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka; and he said so.
“We have to speak to the narrative of the respect of the city,” Council (see below) said amid the clanging sounds of plates arriving and departing in the busy neighborhood diner on one of the city’s main arteries. “This is a city that has always stood up in times of crisis and in times of tribulation ensured victory for others [including Murphy],” said the councilman.
“It weighs a lot on the state’s responsibility to look at the City of Newark,” he added. “It’s been said many times: as the City of Newark goes so goes the State of New Jersey. At some point reciprocity has its place. We need to look at individuals we know who are qualified; individuals who have labored in the vineyard and who can serve the interests of the people of this urban metropolis. As we celebrate Black History, we celebrate how far we have come… but we’re still
waiting for a notice of representation, as we still struggle and wait for fair representation to boards and authorities.”
This special annual issue of InsiderNJ’s African American Power is dedicated to another Newark South Warder:
Eunice K. Dwumfour, the late councilwoman of Sayreville.
May she rest in peace – and may justice be swiftly DONE.
1. Cory Booker
Given the unresolved nature of 2024, New Jersey’s junior senator remains arguably (depending on what Phil Murphy does and depending on Democratic Party dynamics post Biden, if it comes to that) a contender for the presidency.
2. Fabiana Pierre-Louis
The first African American woman in the state of New Jersey to become an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court occupies a position of gravitas.
3. LeRoy Jones
The Democratic State Party Chairman’s leadership of his party puts a target on his back, but he repeatedly proves expert navigation of difficult terrain, demonstrating in this election cycle why it will be harder than external forces envision to crack Jones’ home county of Essex.
4. Sheila Oliver
The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey (a former speaker of the General Assembly) fills in for Murphy when he’s out of state and serves as commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs. As Acting Governor, Oliver proved a steady hand in the scary early days of the COVID-19 crisis.
5. Ras Baraka
The Mayor of Newark easily won reelection last year, triggering a statewide tour as he mulls a 2025 run for governor. He and Jones (see above) have differences to resolve, but Baraka’s record through COVID, the lead line crisis, and as an executive in touch with the people, put him on strong governmental footing.
6. Donald Payne, Jr.
The bow tied Congressman from the 10th District hails from one of New Jersey’s most distinguished African-American political families, son of New Jersey’s first African American Congressman, the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Sr. His vigorous 2022 reelection campaign proved his campaign mettle.
7. Bonnie Watson Coleman
The 12th District Congresswoman made history in 2015 when she assumed the oath of office as New Jersey’s first African American Congresswoman. A former Democratic State Party chair with a strong and independent progressive record, Watson Coleman keeps her own counsel and makes her own political moves. A survivor and a fighter.
8. Tony Vauss
The no-nonsense Mayor of Irvington won a third term in office in 2022 with a walkover election. But it was his maintenance of the Ron Rice aftermath that proved his and Team Irvington Strong’s political viability and organization, as the mayor helped make Renee Burgess the next senator of the 28th District.
9. Marty Small
Mayor of Atlantic City, Small repeatedly stared down elections, change-of-government challenges and the constant opposition of local gadflies to assert his own executive dominance over the seaside gambling mecca. Last year, he hosted the NAACP’s national convention.
10. Troy Singleton
Schooled in the governing arts by former Speaker Joe Roberts, the 7th District state Senator from Willingboro moved quickly up the ranks of the New Jersey Legislature to win a state senate seat in 2017. A savvy political operator and dedicated policy wonk.
11. Britnee Timberlake
The tough-minded, socially conscious 34th District Assemblywoman from East Orange and former President of the Essex County Freeholder Board, will next year take the oath of office as senator in the newly redrawn 34th District.
12. Shirley Turner
The Lawrence-based state Senator from the 15th Legislative District remains one of the senate’s most dignified members, an expert on education issues, an independent Democratic voice, and a champion of government accountability.
13. Benjie Wimberly
The Assemblyman from the 35th District heads the Paterson Recreation Department, a perch he has used to build considerable power and influence as a coach for future leaders.
14. Herb Conaway
The most educated member of the legislature is both a medical doctor and an attorney. The 7th District representative chairs the Assembly Health Committee.
15. Gordon Johnson
The Englewood-based Senator from the 37th District easily won the 2021 Democratic Primary and general election.
16. John Currie
The long-time Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman served eight years with distinction as the chair of the Democratic State Committee.
17. Michael Hill
The longtime reporter and news anchor at NJTV – now the new Host of Morning Edition at WNYC – commands respect as one of the best newsmen in New Jersey. Aggressive but also elegant. Deep Newark family roots.
18. Derek Armstead
The Mayor of Linden easily won reelection to a third term last year.
19. Larry Hamm
The executive director of the People’s Organization for Progress (POP) commands instantaneous respect in the progressive community of New Jersey as one of the longest-standing frontline advocates for African American working people.
20. Shavonda Sumter
The Assemblywoman from the 35th District – a Patersonian and medical professional – took over from Senator Rice (now retired) as the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of New Jersey.
21. Anthony Cureton
Elected in 2018 to supplant his disgraced predecessor, former NAACP Chapter head Cureton serves as the Sheriff of Bergen County.
- Kenneth Clayton
The pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church in Paterson stands at ground zero of one of New Jersey’s most challenged urban neighborhoods. Close to Assemblywoman Sumter.
23. Bill Payne, Sr.
Deputy Chief of Staff to Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo the former Assemblyman is the patriarch of the Newark-based Payne family. Brother of the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, and father of actor Eric Payne, he is the author (along with his nephew former Assemblyman Craig Stanley) of legislation that created the New Jersey Amistad Commission.
24. Renee Burgess
The 28th District senator proved the strength of Team Irvington Strong when she smothered the field last year to take the seat formerly occupied by Newark-based powerhouse Ronald L. Rice.
25. Angela McKnight
Represents Jersey City and Bayonne as the 31st District Assemblywoman. Outspoken and tough.
26. Nia Gill
Redistricted into the 27th District, Gill – the best pure inquisitor in the state legislature – shows every indication of not backing down from a fight with incumbent Dick Codey in a Democratic Primary. A very tough out.
27. Verlina Reynolds Jackson
Assemblywoman from Trenton representing the 15th Legislative District.
28. Linda Carter
Energetic Plainfield-based Assemblywoman representing the 22nd Legislative District.
29. Shanique Speight
Newark Central Ward-based Assemblywoman from the 29th District. A people-centered advocate. Also of note, Essex Democrats relied on husband Andre Speight – Central Ward Democratic Committee chair – to do some of the house-to-house work in the contest for Central Ward council, always a torque point in every citywide election.
30. Ted Green
The Mayor of East Orange cut his professional teeth as a karate instructor. Close to Essex County Democratic Chairman Jones.
31. Adrian Mapp
The Mayor of Plainfield won reelection by a close margin in 2021 and commands a strong power base in Union County.
32. Charles Boyer
Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice, Pastor at Greater Mount Zion AME in Trenton.
33. Richard T. Smith
The Trenton native serves as the President of the New Jersey NAACP.
34. Steffie Bartley
The Newark native oversees his flock in the City of Elizabeth, and routinely jumps into thorny issues, like he did in the aftermath of the 2021 election when he offered his opinion about the next senate president. CEO of The New Hope Memorial Community Development Corporation and The New Hope Memorial Childcare Center
35. Kenyetta Stewart
Remains a close ally to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and a vital part of the mayor’s operation –
particularly important as Baraka continues to make moves toward a 2025 gubernatorial bid.
- Antwan McClellan
The former Ocean City Councilman now serves as the legislature’s only sitting African-American Republican Assemblyman in the state of New Jersey.
- Jonathan M. Sammons
Republican Sheriff of Gloucester County; beat the Democratic Party machine in 2021.
- Middy Baraka
Brother and Chief-of-Staff of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
- Mildred Scott
The Sheriff of Middlesex County.
- Sean Spiller
President of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and Mayor of Montclair Twp.
- Michellene Davis
A veteran of RWJ-Barnabas Health since 2009, Davis is the first African-American to serve as executive vice president in the health system’s history.
- John E. Wallace
Former Supreme Court Justice and chair of the Joint Legislative Commission on Ethical Standards, Judge Wallace served as the tiebreaking 11th member of the Congressional Redistricting Commission.
44. Calvin Souder
The powerful attorney from Newark (principal of Souder Shabazz and Woolridge) is the go-to legal contact for the City of Newark. Close to the administration of Mayor (and statewide progressive power player) Ras Baraka.
45. Jeannine LaRue
Part of the one-two punch combination at the Zita Group, LaRue joins Patricia Zita as two of the most policy-grounded people in the state of New Jersey. Count on LaRue to routinely speak out on social justice issues, while maintaining strong backroom institutional ties.
46. Wayne Richardson
Respected and prized Essex County Commission President. Pioneering labor leader; jobs creator and trades educator.
47. Mo Butler
Partner at Mercury. Point man for Senator Booker.
48. Victor Carstarphen
Mayor of Camden.
49. Curtis Jenkins
Camden Councilman and longtime Laborers union leader.
50. Chris James
The former executive director of the Democratic state Committee and 1st Ward East Orange Council president.
51. Shanel Robinson
The former Franklin Twp. Councilwoman made history in 2018 as the leader of the Democratic Board of Commissioners ticket that broke the GOP chokehold on county government. Chair of the Somerset County Commissioners Board.
52. Kaleem Shabazz
Atlantic City NAACP president and Ward 3 council for Atlantic City.
53. Lamonica McIver
Central Ward Newark Councilwoman. Possible future mayor. Ground game talent. In-touch with constituents.
54. Pat Council
Respected head of the Newark Recreation Department and South Ward Democratic chair, Reverend Council serves as the South Ward Councilman. Father of Hasani Council, Board of Ed member and his COS.
55. Gilbert “Whip” Wilson
Camden County Sheriff.
56. Dwayne Warren
Mayor of Orange.
57. Tai Cooper
A former Deputy Chief Policy Advisor in the Murphy Administration, Cooper serves on the senior leadership team of the state Economic Development Authority (EDA).
58. Sarah Jones
The Director of Government Affairs at Blue Cross/Blue Shield emerged from Payne world to become one of the most dynamic veteran minds in New Jersey politics.
59. Gerry Gibbs
Co-Principal of the Capital Impact Group.
60. Jonathan L. Young, Sr.
Camden County Commissioner.
61. L. Grace Spencer
Superior Court Judge and former Assemblywoman from the 29th District.
62. Stephenine Dixon
Top Democratic Party Operative based in Atlantic County.
63. Jiles Ship
President of the North Jersey Chapter of NOBLE.
64. Rebecca Williams
Union County Commissioner; former Council President in Plainfield and a New Democratic Party leader.
65. Tahesha Way
Secretary of State for the State of New Jersey and former Passaic County Freeholder.
66. Junius Williams
Legendary Rutgers University Professor and author.
67. Albert B. Kelly
CEO and Founder of Gateway Community Action Partnership.
68. Jerry Walker
Hudson County Commissioner. Former Seton Hal basketball star.
69. David Brown
Monmouth County Democratic Chairman.
70. Sam Frisby
Mercer County Commissioner.
71. Joyce Watterman
Council President for Jersey City
72. Rick Thigpen
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for PSE&G; son of the late Essex County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen.
73. Rahaman Muhammed
Deputy Mayor for the City of Newark.
74. Alturrick Kenney
Surrogate for Essex County; close to Newark Mayor Baraka.
- Ernest Coursey
Veteran Atlantic County Commissioner.
- Ruby Cotton
Paterson 4th Ward Councilwoman. Briefly served as Mayor of Silk City.
- Cleopatra Tucker
The 28th District Assemblywoman from Newark.
- Lilisa Mimms
At-Large Councilwoman from Paterson; top council vote-getter in the 2022 municipal election.
- Charlene Walker
Executive Director of Faith in New Jersey; a vital voice during the redistricting process.
- Fatima Heyward
Among her many roles: President of the New Jersey Young Democrats, Chair of the NJDSC’s Emerging Leaders Caucus, Co-Founder of the South Jersey Young Black Democrats, and Diversity Chair of the New Leaders Council-NJ
81. William Spearman
5th District Assemblyman
- DoItAll Kelly
Rapper and community activist serving as Newark West Ward Councilman.
83. Shaheed Muhammad Morris
The Trenton-based former spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Education now serves as communications manager at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. A former television news reporter.
- Chigozie Onyema
Attorney and community activist, former candidate for councilman of the Newark West Ward.
- Denise Ridley
Jersey City Councilwoman.
- Angela Garretson
Union County Commissioner and former Mayor of Hillside. Spearheaded the 2020 movement to abolish the term “freeholder.”
- Donna Pearson
Cumberland County Commissioner. Won against the odds in 2020.
- Louise Rountree
Newark City Councilwoman at-large affiliated with Team Baraka.
- Larry Crump
Newark At-Large Councilman, son of Mildred Crump, and a member of the Baraka Team.
90. Garnet Hall
The Maplewood-based next Assemblywoman from the 28th District.
- Tyshammie Cooper
Essex County Commissioner.
- Felicia Hopson
Burlington County Commissioner.
- Dahlia Vertreese
Labor leader with the Operating Engineers and the Mayor of Hillside.
- Romaine Graham
Essex County Commissioner.
95. Keiona Miller
North Plainfield Councilwoman. Organizes the annual North Plainfield Community Black History Month Celebration.
96. Frank Minor
The veteran Mayor of Logan Twp.
97. Tennille McCoy
Hamiltonian running for the open LD-14 Assembly seat created by Dan Benson moving to run for the office of Mercer County executive office.
98. Danielle Ireland-Imhof
The youngest and only African-American and African-American female county clerk in the state – from Passaic.
99. Dominique Lee
Newark, BRICK Education Network.
100. Jay Redd
Stono Public Affairs Managing Partner.
Deborah Gregory, President of the Newark NAACP, and Dr. Uche Onyeani DC.
SENATOR EMERITUS RONALD L. RICE
SENATOR SANDRA CUNNINGHAM
ASSEMBLYWOMAN MILA JASEY
Gerry and Missy Balmir
C. Andre Daniels
Glenn A. Grant
Norman Deen Muhammad
William “Bill” Davis
Terrance L. Bankston
Oscar James II
Jane Warren Williams
Al-tariq Ibn Shabazz
Rev. Lanel D. Guyton
Jamila Odom Garnett
William Gallman, Jr.
Tracey L. Brown
Eric “Citizen” Payne
Khahil Chaneyfield Nass
Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.
Harold Johnson, Jr.
Allen Stephen Potts
Selika Josiah Talbott
Ronald C. Rice
Reverend John Givens
Ken Morris, Jr.
John Sharpe James
Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins
- African American History
- Black History
- Bonnie Watson Coleman
- Britnee Timberlake
- Cory Booker
- Donald Payne
- John Wallace
- Marty Small
- Renee Burgess
- Ron Rice
- Shavonda Sumter
- Tony Vauss
- Whip Wilson
Click here for the full Insider Index
Jamie Bland former Deputy Mayer under the leadership of Mayor Jane Warren Williams
She is the North East Regional Rep for The National Action Network under Rev Al Sharpton also Chapter Leader .
Sadly Bishop Jerhro James was left off of the list!