Sweeney’s Epic Fall from His NJ Seat of Power is Complete
One of the great Titans of New Jersey politics has officially fallen.
Senate President Steve Sweeney will officially concede the election to truck-driver Edward Durr today, completing an epic fall from power that sent shockwaves through the state's entire political landscape.
Sweeney had been holding onto the slimmest of hopes that absentee and mail-in ballots would give him a win, but that will not happen. Last Thursday, he made a statement saying he would wait for all ballots to be counted, and made reference to "12,000 ballots" that had been "recently found in one county."
That triggered allegations on social media that Sweeney was trying to "steal the election." Sweeney quickly backtracked on what that implied.
A fact-check by the Associated Press offered some clarification.
Richard McGrath, a spokesperson for Sweeney, told the AP that the statement referred to ballots in Camden County -- which is not included in the state's 3rd Legislative District, which Sweeney represents.
And those ballots were mail-in ballots that were not a surprise discovery.
Camden County spokesman Dan Keashan said that on election night, officials from the county picked up mail-in ballots from 29 drop boxes located across the county.
Those collected ballots numbered about 12,000, Keashan said, and they were delivered to a warehouse late that night. They were counted the next day.
Sweeney's concession will seal the biggest upset in recent history in New Jersey. Sweeney has been a senator for two-decades, and one of the strongest allies of democratic power-broker George Norcross. He is the longest serving legislative leader in New Jersey history.
Republican Edward Durr, who has never held political office, and spent just a few thousand dollars on the 3rd district race did what even the most powerful union in the state could not: take out Sweeney. The New Jersey Education Association spent over $6 million and backed a Trump republican four years ago in an attempt to bounce Sweeney from his seat. He won in a landslide.
Since Phil Murphy was elected governor, Sweeney has often been at odds with his fellow democrat. Many viewed him as a needed check against many of Murphy's most progressive policies. His replacement as Senate President is not likely to be that check.
Senate democrats will meet on Friday to choose their new leader. NewJerseyGlobe.com reports Nick Scutari has a lock on the job, and comes in with the support of Murphy.
The roll of foil will now likely fall to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. For the last four years, Coughlin has often served as the peace maker between Sweeney and Murphy. However, his members stand for re-election in two years. After losing seats to republicans this year, Coughlin is not likely to want to advance legislation that could further jeopardize democrats hold on the Assembly.
As for Sweeney, he is likely to remain a force in politics as a powerful union leader and Norcross ally. There are some who has suggested he will run for his 3rd district seat again in four years, but that seems unlikely with another Senate President in place.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.