InsiderNJ’s African-American Political Power List In Honor of Black History Month







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.

Oliver with longtime slate mate state Senator Nia Gill (D-34).

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).

Jones and Currie
Jones, left, and Currie, remained friends through the thorny LG selection process. Jones backed Oliver, and Currie backed Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter. Oliver won, but “There’s respect,” Jones said of the Passaic County Democratic Chairman. “I know there is from me for him, and I think he feels the same about me.”

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.

Watson Coleman

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.

Cunningham, left, with Passaic County’s Idida Rodriguez of 1868 Public Affairs.

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.

Mary Alice Williams of NJTV, activist Archange Antoine, Peter Woolley of FDU, and Michael Hill of NJTV.

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.

Euphoric Eagles fan Butler, right, with DiVincenzo COS Phil Alagia.

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.

Smith, right, with Coughlin.

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.

Organizer and advocate Archange Antoine.

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.

Political operatives Jason and Aaron Solowsky.

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

Orange Councilwoman.

Shanel Robinson.

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.


Gerry Gibbs

Mila Jasey

Jane Warren Williams

Ashley Bennett

Lilisa Mimms

Michael Johnson

Robert Artis

Rev. Lanel D. Guyton

Diane Toliver

Jamila Odom Garnett 

Charles McRae

Tamara Harris

Tanzie Youngblood

Joylette Mills-Ransom

Buster Soaries

Thomas Little

Della Crews

Marie Guervil

Demetrius Terry

Doug Palmer

David Lyons

Patricia Perkins-Auguste

William Gallman, Jr.

Steve Hockaday

Eric Jackson

Middy Baraka

Marty Small

Reginald Bledsoe

Basil Parker

Jerrell Blakeley

Marques-Akil Lewis

Brandon McKoy

Tracey L. Brown

Dianna Houenou

Mike Bland

Eric “Citizen” Payne

Kyle Darby

Randal Pinkett

Jason Redd

Mike Wallace

Lebby Jones

Andre Speight

Petra Gaskins

Naima Ricks

Ernie Rucker

Corey Teague

George Dredden

Jeff Booker

Bill Payne

Arthur Barclay

Jeff Dublin

Sakeema James

Ayinde Martin

Khahil Chaneyfield Nass

Garry Williams

Shante Palmer

Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.

John Campbell

Chris Irving

Zelli Imani

Sherwood Goodenough

Shavar Jeffries

Jonathan Hodges

Lester Taylor

Jeff Jones

Al Spivey

Ingrid Hill

David Brown

Sharon Robinson-Briggs

John Amos

Lisa Jackson

Antony Cureton

Denise Coleman

Safanya Searcy

Jethro James

Dwayne Warren

Selika Josiah

Ronald C. Rice

Ken Gibson

Lucy Edmund

Kason Little

Susan Hairston

Alturrick Kenney

Kim Dehaarte

Marilyn Davis

Samantha Gordon

Reverend John Givens

Lizbeth Davies

Jason Grove

Keith Jones





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