We present these rankings, not as a definitive list, but, in the home state of the late great Paul Robeson, as a working approximation of the African American political world at this particular point in time…
1. Cory Booker
An outspoken opponent of President Donald J. Trump, the Junior Senator makes nearly everyone’s short list as a 2020 presidential candidate.
2. Sheila Oliver
The former Speaker found new political life as New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor and in her powerful cabinet job as the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
3. Leroy Jones
The Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman helped make Phil Murphy Governor, and finessed the deal that restored Steve Sweeney to the speakership and made Craig Coughlin Speaker. He also helped muscle Oliver back into power.
4. Ras Baraka
Up for reelection this year, the Mayor of Newark is an icon of African American culture and politics.
5. Donald Payne, Jr.
The Newark Congressman from the 10th Congressional District has a strong voice on urban and progressive issues.
6. Bonnie Watson Coleman
Beloved by progressives, the 12th District Congresswoman (and former Democratic State Party Chair and former Assemblywoman) has deep Mercer political roots.
7. John Currie
On the strength of his close ties to Governor Murphy, Currie (the longtime Chairman of the Passaic County Democratic Committee) re-upped late last year as chairman of the Democratic State Committee.
8. Ronald L. Rice
No one pushes around the 28th District Senator – a Vietnam veteran and former Newark detective.
9. Nia Gill
With the retirement from the Senate of Kevin O’Toole, the 34th District Senator from Montclair can make a strong case for being the most deadly senate hearings inquisitor during.
10. Troy Singleton
No one will have to show the ropes to the new Senator from the 7th District, long familiar with the subterranean passageways of the Capitol going back to his days as chief of staff to former Speaker Joe Roberts. A Carpenter, he’s close to fellow Building Trades guy Steve Sweeney, President of the NJ State Senate.
11. Sandy Cunningham
The 31st District Senator has a solid Jersey City power base. Close to Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
12. Shirley Turner
Just like Rice, no one owns the 15th District Senator from Lawrenceville.
13. Herb Conaway
A doctor and a lawyer, the 7th District Assemblyman remains firmly in charge as chairman of the Assembly Health Committee.
14. Gordon Johnson
The 37th District Assemblyman from Englewood is a stout ally of Governor Murphy – and of Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19).
15. Benjie Wimberly
In command of a large citywide base in Paterson, the 35th District Assemblyman looks like the most likely successor to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) – but probably not anytime soon.
16. Adrian Mapp
If you doubt the power of the Plainfield Mayor, just look at the torque position he occupies in the unfolding Union County Democratic Committee chairman’s fight.
17. Ken Morris, Jr.
Paterson’s basso profundo has Renaissance Man street cred in his role as at-large councilman: expert painter, musician and budget master.
18. Lamont Repollet
A Carteret native who cut his teeth in his hometown and as superintendent of the Asbury Park School System, the Acting Commissioner of Education faces enormous political challenges in his new job.
19. Michellene Davis
The Executive Vice President of Barnabas Health remains an important fundraising contact for New Jersey Democrats.
20. Michael Hill
Hard-hitting intellectual television reporter for NJTV.
21. Larry Hamm
A gutsy political survivor, Hamm charges up one of the most important progressive organizations in the state: The People’s Organization for Progress.
22. Tony Vauss
The Irvington Mayor is up for reelection this year, in pursuit of a second term on the local throne.
23. Mo Butler
Managing Director at Mercury Public Affairs, the former Booker Chief of Staff remains strongly tied to New Jersey’s junior senator.
24. Kenneth Clayton
The Pastor of St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Paterson. At ground zero.
25. Ted Green
The Mayor of East Orange commands the government arm of one of the state’s most significant political power bases. Close to Chairman Leory Jones.
26. Derek Armstead
Up for reelection this year, the Mayor of Linden has also waded into the frenetic Union County Democratic Chairman’s contest, as the running mate of Acting Chair Colleen Mahr.
27. Frank Gilliam, Jr.
With the South Jersey Democratic Machine behind him, Atlantic City Mayor Gilliam deposed Don Guardian.
28. Shavonda Sumter
Although she lost her bid to serve as Murphy’s running mate, the 35th District Assemblywoman remains close to Chairman Currie.
29. Jamel Holley
The 2oth District Assemblyman has picked a side in the developing chairman’s contest, and will face the reality going forward of war with state Senator Joe Cryan (D-20).
30. Tahesha Way
The soon-to-be-confirmed incoming Secretary of State is widely respected, and will be at Governor Murphy’s side as a leading voice in the administration.
31. Elnardo Webster, Jr.
New Jersey power attorney. Close to Booker.
32. Richard T. Smith
President of the New Jersey NAACP.
33. John Harmon
President of the NJ African American Chamber of Commerce.
34. Jerry Green
Sidelined by illness, the Plainfield political legend gave up the chairmanship of the Union Democratic Party but remains in office as an Assemblyman serving the 22nd District.
35. Chris Irving
The former Paterson Board of Ed Prez moved to the Murphy Administration this year as Assistant to the Commissioner
36. Ronald Slaughter
The Reverend Pastor of Saint James AME Church proved a key 2017 street presence during the controversy around the oversight and maintenance of Essex County Community College.
37. Sean Spiller
Gutsy political minder over at the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).
38. Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins
Newark’s Central Ward Councilwoman is running for Mayor of Newark against incumbent Baraka in the May nonpartisan election.
39. John E. Wallace
Former Supreme Court justice and chair of the Joint Legislative Commission on Ethical Standards.
40. Ted Wells
Power Attorney. Once represented former U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli.
41. Jim Johnson
Last year’s failed progressive candidate for Governor from Montclair still generated 100,000 votes and shows no sign of going away quietly.
42. Jeremy Farrell
Corporation Counsel in Jersey City.
43. Chris James
East Orange Councilman, former Executive Director of the Democratic State Committee.
44. James Gee
Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12).
45. Dana Redd
Former Mayor of Camden. Respected.
46. Joe Carter
Newark New Hope Baptist pastor. One of the clergymen allied on the minsters’ coalition with Ronald Slaughter, Bartley and Jethro James, among others.
47. Tai Cooper
The Newark stalwart will take a job next month as deputy chief policy advisor in the Murphy Administration.
48. Zachary Chester
Council President in Trenton serving the City’s West Ward.
49. Sarah Jones
Formerly of Payne World, she’s in charge of Government Affairs for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.
50. Phyllis Holly-Ward
Trenton Councilwoman At-Large. Always in the mix as a future mayoral candidate.
51. Jonathan L. Young, Sr.
Camden County Freeholder.
52. L. Grace Spencer
Former Assemblywoman, now a Superior Court Judge in Essex County.
53. Steffi Bartley
Pastor of New Hope Memorial Baptist Church in Elizabeth. Political.
54. Jeannine Frisby LaRue
The Mercer-based power broker and political confidant works the Government and Public Affairs beat for Kaufman Zita.
55. Adam Taliaferro
The Assemblyman from the 3rd District claims two of New Jersey’s ablest political mentors in slate mates Sweeney and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3).
56. Jiles Ship
Heads up NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement).
57. Junius Williams
Head of Rutgers University’s Abbott Leadership Program. One of the state’s leading Black intellectuals.
58. Albert B. Kelly
Mayor of Bridgeton.
59. David Brown
Senator Vin Gopal’s successor as the Chair of the Monmouth County Democrats.
60. Sam Frisby
The Mercer County Freeholder – son of Jeannine LaRue – is a likely future assemblyman.
61. Levon Putney
Veteran CBS News Local reporter. Grilled Murphy and GOP nominee Kim Guadagno in one of last year’s televised gubernatorial debates.
62. Anthony Salters
In the hunt for the Union County Democratic Committee chairmanship. Salters succeeded the late Charlotte DeFilippo as chair of the Hillside Democratic Committee.
63. Rick Thigpen
Son of the late Phil Thigpen, who served with distinction as chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee, the younger Thigpen heads of state government affairs for the powerful PSE&G.
64. Rahaman Muhammed
Formerly a South Ward-based organizer for SEIU, Muhammed serves as Deputy Mayor of the City of Newark in the Baraka Administration.
65. Dan Smith
Senior Advisor to Speaker Craig Coughlin.
66. Bill McKoy
The 3rd Ward Paterson Councilman wants to succeed the jailed Jose “Joey” Torres as the next elected mayor of the City of Paterson.
67. Charles Williams
The consummate Essex County Democratic Party operative. Close to LG Oliver.
68. Sharpe James and John Sharpe James
The father and son duo are respectively a former Brick City Mayor and South Ward Councilman.
69. Derrick Greene
Newly recruited by the Murphy Administration as Diversity Advisor.
70. T.J. Best
Passaic County Freeholder, and consummate Democratic Party player.
71. Ruby Cotton
The local Councilwoman who (very) briefly served as the Acting Mayor of Paterson when Torres cracked up, and the first female African-American to hold the office, however briefly.
72. Cleopatra Tucker
The Newark-based Assemblywoman from the 28th District, a ten-year veteran of Trenton.
73. Angela McKnight
The 31st District Assemblywoman, she represents Jersey City and Bayonne.
74. Mildred Crump
The At-Large Councilwoman is one of the longest-serving African American elected officials in New Jersey.
75. Shanique Speight
One of the newest members of the Assembly, 29th District Assemblywoman Speight became the long-term option for Essex Democrats after the retirement of Assemblywoman Spencer.
76. Wayne Richardson
Essex County Freeholder.
77. Verlina Reynolds Jackson
The Trenton Councilwoman will take a crack this coming Saturday as a candidate for the vacant LD15 Assembly seat left behind by Acting Treasurer Liz Muoio.
78. Linda Carter
Union County Freeholder. Possible mayoral successor to Mayor Map in her hometown of Plainfield.
79. Britnee Timberlake
The former Essex County Freeholder President this year took the oath of office as the successor to Sheila Oliver as the Assemblywoman from New Jersey’s 34th District.
80. Ken Armwood
A protégé of Senator Bob Smith (D-17), the Piscataway pol and former football star serves on the Middlesex County Freeholder Board.
81. Eddie Osborne
LIUNA Labor leader Osborne is a crucial Election Year part of Team Baraka.
82. Tara Dowdell
Communications chief with the Linda Weber for Congress Campaign in CD7.
83. Kenyatta Stewart
Briefly a potential mayoral candidate in his hometown of Paterson, Stewart serves as corporation counsel for the City of Newark.
84. Joyce Watterman
At-Large Councilwoman in Jersey City.
85. Archange Antoine
Roselle School Board Member and civil rights activist.
86. Hiver Ambrose
Respected Union County-based Democratic Party operative.
87. Angela Garretson
Union County Freeholder and former Hillside Mayor.
88. Jason Solowsky
Tp notch political operative, close to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.
89. Braxton Plummer
Player on the Phil Murphy Campaign. Now at the Economic Development Authority (EDA).
90. Rufus Johnson
Essex County Freeholder. Close to Senator Rice.
91. Donna K. Williams
92. Shanel Robinson
The Franklin Twp. Councilwoman had a respectable showing last year as a Somerset County Freeholder candidate.
93. Rebecca Williams
Councilwoman in Plainfield. Close to Mayor Mapp.
94. Mohammed Jalloh
Union County Freeholder. Close to Senator Cryan.
95. Dahlia Vertreese
Newly elected Hillside Mayor. Close to mentor Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-34) and Local Democratic Party Chair Salters.
96. Mike Jackson
First Ward Councilman serving Paterson.
97. Keiona Miller
North Plainfield Councilwoman.
98. Frank Minor
Mayor of Logan Twp.
99. Ernest D. Coursey
The Atlantic City Freeholder took a failed crack at an LD2 Assembly seat last year.
100. Gerry and Missy Balmir
Husband and wife dynamic political duo from Jersey City – with Mercer roots.
Jane Warren Williams
Rev. Lanel D. Guyton
Jamila Odom Garnett
William Gallman, Jr.
Tracey L. Brown
Eric “Citizen” Payne
Khahil Chaneyfield Nass
Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.
Ronald C. Rice
Reverend John Givens
- Bonnie Watson Coleman
- Chris Irving
- Chris James
- Cory Booker
- Dana Redd
- Derek Armstead
- Donald Payne
- Elnardo Webster
- Frank Gilliam
- Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins
- Gordon Johnson
- Herb Conaway
- Insider NJ's African-American Power List 2018
- Jamel Holley
- James Gee
- Jeremy Farrell
- Jim Johnson
- Joe Carter
- John Currie
- John Harmon
- John Wallace
- Ken Morris
- Kenneth Clayton
- Lamont Repollet
- Larry Hamm
- Leroy Jones
- Michael Hill
- Michellene Davis
- Mo Butler
- Nia Gill
- Ras Baraka
- Richard Smith
- Ron Rice
- Ronald Slaughter
- Sandy Cunningham
- Sean Spiller
- Shavonda Sumter
- Sheila Oliver
- Shirley Turner
- Tahesha Way
- Tai Cooper
- Ted Green
- Ted Wells
- Tony Vauss
- Troy Singleton
- Zachary Chester
Click here for the full Insider Index