TRENTON — A buoyant Senate President Stephen Sweeney – fresh from successfully defending his Democratic majority without a loss and putting in place a minimum wage increase – is taking a victory lap today.
At an appearance this morning in Trenton, Sweeney trumpeted his party’s accomplishments, then went after Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) and business groups who opposed the wage increase.
“This is the right thing to do for the people of this state. It’s no different from when you did paid family leave. They said the sky was going to fall, and it didn’t,” Sweeney said of the wage increase. “And I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been insulted by the business community’s comments about how disgraceful this is to amend the constitution. Did you know we amended the Constitution for Bingo?”
Sweeney plans to tour the state this afternoon, making stops in East Brunswick, Fair Lawn and Egg Harbor Township – all in districts where Democratic Senate candidate prevailed in hard fought races.
Democrats held their 24-16 majority in the state Senate, though they lost at least 1 seat in the Assembly, with a seat in north Jersey still too close to call.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to race the minimum wage, from $7.25 to $8.25 starting in September, and then annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
Sweeney went on to taunt Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union), who he mockingly called “Junior.” Kean had personally recruited attorney Niki Trunk to run against Sweeney, and made an aggressive push to take control of the upper house.
“Junior has to explain to his own colleagues what his strategy was… They’ll decide who their leadership is going to be,” Sweeney said.
Added Sweeney: “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. We had some close races.”
Sweeney also said that if Republicans were ever going to win a majority in the Legislature, last night was their chance, on the coattails of a popular Republican governor.
“We won all our seats in a tidal wave,” Sweeney said, referring to Christie's win of over 20 points over Democrat Barbara Buono. “The Republicans didn’t win this year, and they’ve got to be thinking oh my god, what’s next?”
Sweeney said that over the next decade, his party will pick up more seats.
“I’m not like Junior. I’m not going to tell you (where),” Sweeney said. “All I’m going to tell you is we’re going to go where we think we can win and we’re going to work aggressively to pick up some more Democratic seats.”