Rice announces resignation from Senate

Matthew Fazelpoor//August 21, 2022

Rice announces resignation from Senate

Matthew Fazelpoor//August 21, 2022

Sen. Ronald Rice
Sen. Ron Rice, shown during the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee meeting regarding medical cannabis on May 20, 2019, is retiring from the Senate. – AARON HOUSTON

State Sen. Ron Rice, D-28th District, announced Aug. 19 that he will resign his Senate seat, effective Aug. 31.

Rice, the longest-serving Black legislator in state history and a noted civil rights activist, has served in the Legislature for 36 years, and has been in politics since 1981 in Newark, where retired as a police officer.

Rice, the former longtime chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, has dealt with health issues as well as the loss of his wife in 2020.

News of his retirement sparked a flood of remembrances, statements and well-wishes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Gov. Phil Murphy said that Rice will leave the Senate as one of its most transformational members and a true maverick with a legacy of legislative successes that will stand clearly on its own.

“He understood that public office is not about doing what’s best for individual politics or promotion but what’s right for the people we serve,” Murphy said in a statement. “He forced his fellow legislators – and to be sure, governors – to confront uncomfortable truths and wasn’t afraid to be a lone voice of dissent if he believed such dissent shined a light on injustice. In doing so, he made us all better at our jobs.”

Senate President Nick Scutari, D-22nd District, described Rice as an accomplished and admired public official who has dedicated much of his life to the service of others.

“He served our country as a decorated Marine in Vietnam, he served his home City of Newark as a police detective, member of City Council and Deputy Mayor, and he served the resident of his district and the people of New Jersey for 36 years in the Legislature,” said Scutari. “Ron stood up and spoke out for what he believed in and fought for the needs of the underprivileged. He left his mark in meaningful and lasting ways.”

“I will miss having Ron in the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, D-29th District. “We didn’t always agree on all the issues, but we were always united in our efforts to protect the rights of others and to fight for the needs of the disadvantaged. He is a consummate gentleman who was a valued ally in times of challenge.”

Sen. Bob Singer, R-30th District, senior member of the Senate Republican Caucus, called his Democrat friend “the conscience of the Senate.

“I shared time with him on the Senate Health Committee where we became friends who didn’t always agree but always respected the other’s opinion,” Singer added.

Singer said Rice will be impossible to replace in the chamber and is a model for aspiring senators. “As my friend steps away from the State House, I will continue to draw inspiration from our shared passions,” Singer said.

“While I have no doubt Ron will continue to advocate forcefully for social justice and the betterment of every community of color so long as he is able, his resignation leaves a huge void in the Legislature that will be hard to fill,” said Murphy. “I will always be proud to have called him my partner but even prouder to call him my friend.”