By. Michael Symons
Senate President Stephen Sweeney is engaging in a bit of a victory lap today, one day after his Democratic caucus retained its 24-16 majority in the Senate despite Gov. Chris Christie’s landslide re-election.
Before heading to events in East Brunswick and Fair Lawn this afternoon and Egg Harbor Township this evening, Sweeney started at the Trenton Deliverance Center Church in Trenton to celebrate with union leaders and advocates that 61 percent voters approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
Sweeney called the approval of the minimum wage ballot question – which amends the state constitution to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour in January, then each year to keep pace with inflation – “one of the greatest victories I’ve ever had as a legislator.”
“It’s sweet. It’s real sweet,” said Sweeney, who said the vote capped a 12-year effort.
Sweeney also fielded questions from reporters about various political topics, including his frosty relationship with Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., who might not continue as the Senate GOP’s leader in the term that starts in January.
Sweeney said Republicans couldn’t capitalize on their best shot to take back the Legislature.
“They had a 30-point tidal wave. I’ve got to tell you, I was nervous. But we worked a plan. I am thrilled that they came after me. I am very happy that they spent a million dollars on me because, look, we had some close races. You saw the numbers in a couple of those races. But if you’re going to be the leader of the caucus, you’ve got to be the leader of the caucus. I wasn’t going to hide, ‘Leave me alone. Don’t touch me. Go after my colleagues.’ No, come on. I’m the leader. I’ll take it. And I’m thrilled what happened. We won all of our seats in a tidal wave. You know something: The Republicans didn’t win this year, so they’ve got to be thinking, ‘Oh my God, what’s next?’ Because I can tell you, there are places where we can pick up, and over the next decade we will pick up seats.”
On Christie’s short coattails:
“It means that the state is a Democrat state. And in a tidal wave, in a tidal wave election like we had here, which I’ve never seen before – I saw polling numbers where he was polling 70 percent, in fact, in my county at one point. And you the fact that in my county, we picked up freeholder seats, we actually net gained a town, tells me the people of this state – they care about minimum wage. They care about paid family leave. They care about women’s health. They care about marriage equality. It’s a Democrat state.”
On Sen. Barbara Buono’s scathing critique of Democrats in her concession speech:
“Campaigns are campaigns. When you work as hard, when you run as hard as she did, she has a right to be disappointed.”
On record-breaking independent spending in the legislative races:
“The super PACs, they were coming in from all over the place. That happened nationally. I’m glad honestly there were a couple out there looking out for us, because there was plenty of them going against us.”