The Nia Gill Story


An announcement of her own senate presidency candidacy by Senator Nia Gill of Montclair tonight followed a statement of support from her county party chairman for the candidacy of Senator Nick Scutari. They have a history, Gill, and Essex County Democratic Committee Chair LeRoy Jones – a history based on a political rivalry that goes back to the race Gill won to get to the state senate.

Here’s the back story:

Following redistricting and state Senator Dick Codey’s separation from the old 27th Legislative District, Nia Gill of Montclair went after the senate seat in the newly configured 34th, and defeated incumbent Republican Senator Norman Robertson in 2001..

Gill secured the seat for two years.

Come 2003, a fight erupted in Essex County as Assemblyman LeRoy Jones – the future county Democratic chairman – opposed Gill in the Party Primary as the newly minted senator attempted to secure a full, four year term.

Jones ran on the line with Essex County Freeholder Sheila Oliver of East Orange, and Peter C. Eagler of Clifton. Financed in part by state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), Gill beat Jones by 1,000 votes, but it was a split ticket outcome, as both Oliver and Eagler (who replaced Willis Edwards) also won their assembly seats.

In 2005, Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-34) of Montclair supplanted Eagler as Essex dominated the 34th District.

That same year, South Jersey began making its move on Codey, seeking to replace him with the late state Senator John Adler (D-6). To throw Adler off his trail, Codey made the South Jersey lawmaker Senate Judiciary chairman, which infuriated state Senators Sharpe James and Ronald L. Rice.

Flirting with South Jersey, the pair got behind Gill as an alternative to Codey, but the revolt only lasted for a day, as the sitting senate president coaxed in his county allies.

In late 2007, when Adler rushed a nomination by Rice of Newark Councilman Luis Quintana to the Sewerage Authority, Codey could sense another movement afoot against him. But this time, future Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), not Adler, had him in his sights.

In 2009, Sweeney summoned the votes to dethrone Codey by getting support from Essex County. In order to empower Sweeney and get rid of Codey, Essex put up a little-known assemblywoman from East Orange named Oliver.

Jettisoned by South Jersey in 2013 in large part because she would not push a charter schools agenda – and because she did not finally get along with Sweeney (or Governor Chris Christie), Oliver appeared headed for permanent back bench duty.

But both Oliver and Codey found themselves huddled up in fierce reanimation mode – and ultimately significantly re-empowered – first as mutual 2014 backers of Ras Baraka for Newark Mayor in defiance of the county party organization, and then as the early players of an unlikely movement that would become known as Murphy for Governor 2017.

For her part, Senator Gill, a Rutgers University-trained attorney, became one of the most respected inquisitors and orators in the state legislature over the course of the past two decades, and maintained an independent streak that prompted her to again run off the Essex County line in 2012 for the Congressional seat vacated by the death of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Sr.

Gill lost to sitting U.S. Rep. Donald Payne. Sr.

As a member of the Black Legislative Caucus and Essex Democrat, she has often joined forces with maverick Senator Ronald L. Rice, who clashed with Senator Nick Scutari last year.

In a disagreement over marijuana legalization, Scutari peeled off his jacket and rose out of his chair in the caucus room during one encounter with the elder Rice, a Vietnam combat veteran, and later yelled at the Newark senator on the floor of the state senate.

Yesterday, Black and Latino leaders in New Jersey called on the Legislature to select a person of color as the next Senate President, even as Middlesex and South Jersey slammed together to form the foundation for Scutari’s support.

“While unexpected, the outcome of Tuesday’s election presents an opportunity for people of color in New Jersey,” said Richard Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference. “There is lots of work to do to dismantle structural racism and address discrimination in our state, and that work must be led by people of color. Legislators must be honest about the racial makeup of our state and must select a leader that represents the voices and interests of our people.”




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3 responses to “The Nia Gill Story”

  1. Two powerful black women who should work with other
    black women who were also victims of Sweeney and Norcross. They need to remember they serve the entire state, not just the North. Forgetting the South is the reason why Norcross and Sweeney have risen up


    Uneducated dropout from middle school and a childish bully whose racist and sexually harasses women is runs NJ. This is really pathetic. I blame tje Governors and their AGS who enable this BS

    Sick of white men running the damn state. They created the poorest city. It black sellouts like Leroy Jones and
    Richard Smith; Troy singleton; Cory Booker and Lloyd Henderson who sell out the black race in NJ. They are the slaves who sold out like Judas sold out Jesus

    Plantation Politics. North Jersey needs to form alliance with African Americans in south Jersey who have been directly impacted by sweeney and norcross

    It’s time to unify and taken Norcross and Sweeney Down

  3. While desperate for chnic Highly Educated Mathematics, Computer Science teachers (Midwoods HS STEM, before the Acronym existed, BS MIT Math, AI -in its infancy!, MA NYU Steinhardt School of Education, MS NYU School of Engineering & Science, PhD Polytechnic University! Postdoctoral Work in Education Leadership at Montclair State (at $11,000+ of NJ DOE OLA Tuition Waiver!) and FIFTY+ 55)! YEARS of teaching at HS College level I can not get the NJ DOE to return a Call/eMail!! I have been threatened by DOE Lawyers and GUN Carrying DOE Security at my Montclair HOME of 45 Years! Astounding! I was teaching AP Calculus at Tech HS Newark at 847am on 9/11/2001 when the WTC was Attacked! The NJ DOE has LIED, for YEARS! to thwart my FOIA/ OPRA Requests! Why can’t Joy, Carlos, Malik do Math? Look at the Gov Murphy/ Dennis Zaveloff JD/MBA Task force! (Neither, ever taught a DAY in their Life!)

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