Senator of Puerto Rican origin Teresa Ruiz was elected today as the leader of the Democratic majority in the New Jersey Senate, becoming the first Latina with that position in the state legislature.
“Very proud to be the first Puerto Rican leader of the Senate majority and the highest-ranking Latina in the history of the New Jersey Legislature,” the new Democratic spokeswoman said in a statement on her Facebook account.
Ruiz, who chairs the Education Committee, thanked her fellow senators for the trust they have placed in her as well as the new president of the state Senate, Nicholas P. Scutari, who replaces Stephen Sweeney.
Veteran Senator Sweeney, who was seeking reelection, was defeated in the elections on November 2, in results that have surprised many, and today the Democratic majority in the Upper House elected Scutari and Ruiz as leaders in that body.
A coalition of black and Latino leaders in New Jersey had called for the new Senate president to be a person of color.
Ruiz said that he will continue to work to build “a policy that makes New Jersey work for everyone, that protects the most vulnerable and continues to recognize that education is the greatest factor of equality that we have in this country.”
The legislator, the first Puerto Rican elected to the Senate in 2007 and who has subsequently revalidated, was congratulated by the federal senator of New Jersey, Bob Menéndez, who classified the election as “historic”.
“I cannot think of a more prepared and experienced person to be the next majority leader in the Senate,” the senator said in a statement.
“Having a Latina in this leadership position will ensure that New Jersey’s vibrant Latina community has a strong voice that stands up for it every day,” she added.
Ras Baraka, mayor of Newark, the city that Ruiz represents, was also pleased and assured that having a Latina in the office is something that should have happened a long time ago.
He noted that Ruiz has always “fought tirelessly” for Newark families and the growth of the city.