The longest-serving lawmaker in New Jersey history, with nearly five decades of legislative experience, state Sen. Richard Codey is calling it quits just months after he defeated another incumbent, Sen. Nia Gill, in a hotly contested primary election.
Codey’s victory means that political bosses and not Democratic Party voters will choose the next senator in the Essex County-based 27th Legislative District, which includes Livingston, Millburn, Montclair, Roseland, and West Orange in Essex County, and Clifton in Passaic County.
Codey served as governor from November 2004 until January 2006 and he has been in the state Senate since 1982. He served in the Assembly from 1974 to 1981.
“I’m not gonna lie, this is a tough day for me,” wrote Codey, 76, announcing his retirement on Monday. “An emotional day. But here it is: After a half-century in the Legislature, it’s time for me to say goodbye. My service to the state of New Jersey and its great people will end when this legislative session concludes at the end of the year.”
“Seriously, it has been an incredible run and I’m lucky and grateful to have my health. I won my first race in November of 1973 and was sworn in the following January, making it a perfect 50-year circle we’re closing,” wrote Codey, on his Facebook page. “I’ve been your Assemblyman, your Senator and your Governor. Now, it’s time to trade all those trips to Trenton for more time as a husband, father and grandpa. I’ll still be running my businesses — an insurance agency and those funeral homes — but I’m ready for something different.”
Codey said it is “Time to step aside and watch the next generation do their thing.”
Fiercely independent and principled, Gill has been in the Senate since 2002 and she was a candidate for Senate president after Sweeney’s defeat in 2021, but she only got two votes and lost to Sen. Nicholas ‘No-Show Nick’ Scutari.
She has been called “a tireless advocate for civil rights, public education, healthcare, and ensuring equal access to our democracy.”
She was the only Democrat who voted against the “Elections Transparency Act,” which doubled campaign contribution limits from $2,600 to $5,200 per candidate per election, removed a pay-to-play prohibition on government contractors donating to political committees, and eviscerated the independence of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. The corrupt campaign finance law also reduced the statute of limitations for enforcement actions from 10 years to two years and retroactively wiped out dozens of violations.
Gill previously served in the General Assembly, from 1994 to 2002, where she was Minority Whip from 1996 to 2001.
She became a candidate for state Senate in District 34, which for nearly two decades had been a Republican stronghold before some of the municipalities Gill had represented in the Assembly were shifted into the district.
Gill’s landslide 2003 victory over first-term incumbent Republican Sen. Norman M. Robertson followed a contested primary election, in which LeRoy J. Jones, Jr. was awarded the preferred ballot position on the party line.
Despite being outspent by the establishment favorite in the heavily Democratic district, Gill won with 55% of the vote.
Millionaire Gov. Phil Murphy endorsed Codey and called him a “hardworking and dedicated” public servant” without mentioning Gill, a female Democrat who has led on legislation including bills to tighten the state’s gun laws.
LeRoy Jones, the Democratic State Party chairman, congratulated Codey and said he looked forward to working with him “to deliver progress” for the district. He also praised Gill, who he said had shown dedication throughout her career.
Gill was also a 2012 primary election candidate to fill the vacancy in the 10th congressional district caused by the death of U.S. Representative Donald M. Payne, but she lost to the congressman’s son, Donald Payne Jr.
Codey served as governor for more than a year in the early 2000s, announced Monday he is dropping his re-election bid and