More than one hundred New Jersey politicos and local supporters feted Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial Sheila Oliver on Monday night, celebrating her official nomination to party gubernatorial nominee's Phil Murphy's ticket last week.
The event was sponsored former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins and former Councilman Calvin West, who were early supporters of Murphy.
"We are committed to making sure everyone benefits from New Jersey's economy," Oliver told the crowd, gathered on the rooftop bar of the Robert Treat Hotel in downtown Newark, providing a bird's eye view of the changing, redeveloping landscape of downtown Newark.
"We are next to the transportation hub of the state," Oliver said. "We've got to get Amtrak back on track. We have to get PATH back on track. We have to get our public school system back on track. We have to give our young people the opportunity to get a higher education."
Oliver, who was born and raised in Newark, was at home among the crowd, many of whom were proud to see a Newark native ascend to the upper reaches of New Jersey politics.
"Tonight demonstrated Newark's and New Jersey's commitment to the Murphy and Oliver ticket," Chaneyfield Jenkins said. "We are especially excited about having a Newark girl lead the change we so desperately need in New Jersey."
James, wearing a straw pork pie hat, said Oliver is more than qualified for the job of lieutenant governor.
"Sheila Oliver has been in the trenches. She was the Speaker of the Assembly, and she brings that experience with her," James said. "The old boy network tried to knock her down, and when they did that, she stood right back up. We marginalize her when we suggest that, as others have, that she is a candidate to draw the African-American vote. She's bigger than that, and her credentials are exemplary."
All sides of the Newark political spectrum were present at the event. Attendees included Amiri Baraka, Jr., Mayor Ras Baraka's brother and chief of staff; Deputy Mayor Rahaman Muhammad; Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29) and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28).
Oliver's remarks to the crowd included comments on inclusion, economic equality, and the need for diversity, especially within the many boards, authorities and commissions that make up a "shadow" government.
"If you go to a Port Authority meeting, you're not going to see diversity there," Oliver said. "If you go to a meeting of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, you're not going to see diversity there. I want to open our residents eyes in this state. Let's take a look at who's managing our multibillion pension fund. How many people are given an opportunity to step up to the table and be part of the system that invests our pension money?"
Oliver also said she and Murphy would address the high rate of foreclosures in New Jersey.
"There are too many of our families who are facing the loss of their homes," Oliver said. "The state government could have stepped in and done things to help these families. A Christie-Guadagno administration has done nothing."
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, a longtime ally of James, also came to show support.
McGreevey noted that prisoner reentry, an issue that the former Garden State governor has been very active in for the past several years, could be a potential focal point in a Murphy-Oliver administration.
"New Jersey has made great strides in the last decade in terms of reducing the prison population, providing for addiction treatment, and beginning to help on housing," said McGreevey about the reentry issue, which often has a greater impact in cities such as Newark, Jersey City and Paterson. "I think the next opportunity is in employment and training."