Sweeney Submits to a ‘Red Wave’


TRENTON- You could tell Steve Sweeney didn’t want to be here. Who could blame him?

Eight days after Election Day, the now lame-duck Senate President arrived at his concession press event in the Statehouse Annex at 12:59 p.m., a minute early. He proceeded to read a statement with little visible emotion.

He was done at 1:08 p.m.

With that, Sweeney began walking away, but then agreed – a bit reluctantly, it seemed – to answer “two questions.” That was it, just two.

One was, “What happened?”

Just how did a Republican truck driver by the name of Ed Durr beat the second most powerful politician in New Jersey?

“It was a red wave,” Sweeney said.

To be sure, Sweeney’s south Jersey district is far from a liberal bastion. Sweeney, himself, is a conservative Democrat.

But with Republican turnout exceeding expectations and many Dems not bothering to vote, none of that seemed to matter. Sweeney was “toast,” as the saying goes. As were the district’s two Democratic Assembly members.

What’s next?

Another run for office?

Sweeney didn’t specifically say that, but he gave the impression, there’ll be more press conferences to come. No, this wasn’t a Dick Nixon moment.

“I will be speaking from a different podium, but I promise you: I will be just as loud and just as forceful a voice for change,” he said.

In his speech, Sweeney said he accepted the results and that, “I want to congratulate Mr. Durr and wish him the best of luck.”

He reminded his listeners that he got into politics when his daughter was born premature and with developmental disabilities.

It was that experience, he said, that prompted him to support legislation to help the disabled community and paid family leave.

As Congress continues to fight over a federal guarantee of paid family leave, it’s worth remembering that the benefit was established in New Jersey years ago.

Sweeney then ran down the highlights of his career and what he sees as his accomplishments.

He spoke about saving Salem County’s three nuclear plants, promoting the offshore wind industry, turning Rowan University into a “first class” institution, enacting a $15 an hour minimum wage and legalizing pot.

And then, “It took 20 years and bitter battles, but we stabilized a state pension system that was veering toward bankruptcy and saved billions of dollars in healthcare and prescription benefit costs.”

Sweeney’s departure has prompted the usual number of praiseworthy statements from many of his fellow politicians.

That’s to be expected. But it also can be premature.

Given the fact, his almost perfunctory address was devoid of any emotion, you got the impression it was no farewell.

The guess here is that Sweeney has no plans to quit politics. The question is, what’s his next move?

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