Former state Senate President Steve Sweeney announced Monday that he is a candidate for governor — as has long been expected. The election, in November 2025, is nearly two years away.
And, while Sweeney’s video announcement mentioned that he is an ironworker and union leader — something he does on a regular basis — it mostly was built around what he called his softer side.
A side that was developed when his daughter, Lauren, was born prematurely with Down syndrome.
Sweeney said the struggles his family took on to ensure Lauren got services led him to public life, a public life in which he became a “fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves.”
Sweeney listed his success as state Senate president, a position he held for 12 years until a stunning defeat in 2021.
“I’m so proud of what New Jersey has accomplished for people with disabilities — in education, in jobs and in training and health care, but much more needs to be done,” he said in the video. “Everyone deserves a shot at dignity, respect and a job. Everyone.”
He noted his work on minimum wage, family leave and marriage equality.
He said the state needs a constitutional amendment to protect a women’s right to make her own health care choices.
He made the standard promise of ensuring the tax system works for families, not big corporations.
Sweeney did not mention the Path to Progress — a bipartisan initiative he and others created to help the state get on better financial footing moving forward.
He did reference his stunning defeat to Ed Durr in 2021.
“Sometimes in life, we face setbacks,” he said. “New Jerseyans get up, we dust ourselves off, we get back to work, because that’s who we are.”
Sweeney becomes the second declared candidate for the Democratic nomination, following Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.
It could be a crowded field.
U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill are widely expected to enter the race — but must wait until after their expected reelection to the House next November to do so. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka also is believed to be seriously considered entering the race.
For Sweeney and Fulop, it’s a back to the future moment. Both were considered leading candidates for the nomination in 2017 before a then-little-known business leader and campaign fundraiser, Phil Murphy, entered the race.
Sweeney, in his video, said he’s hoping his efforts in public life will be a difference this time.
“I will always put New Jersey’s kids, working families and seniors first,” he said. “You know that’s who I’ll fight for, because that’s who I’ve always fought for.
“It’s who I am — a fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves. I’m running for governor because New Jersey is worth fighting for.”
Today, I’m announcing my run for New Jersey governor.
I was a union ironworker for years and became a public servant after my daughter was born with Down Syndrome.
She was the spark, inspiring me to fight for a better NJ.
Watch my announcement video⬇️https://t.co/erPot2m90R
— Steve Sweeney (@SteveSweeney_NJ) December 11, 2023