Acting Governor of New Jersey Sheila Oliver has died unexpectedly and suddenly while serving as interim leader of the state, according to reports.
“It is with incredible sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey,” the Oliver family said in a statement. “She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero.”
Oliver was 71 years old.
“Oliver was first elected in 2018 on a joint ticket with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and had been acting as governor while Murphy was vacationing in Italy,” writes The Daily Caller. “She was abruptly hospitalized on Monday due to an unspecified “long illness” and later died, according to a report by the New Jersey Globe.
Oliver previously served as the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, the lower house of the state legislature. She was also serving as the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
Murphy and Oliver were narrowly reelected in 2022 against the Republican nominee, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattareli, in a race that gained national attention.”
Tammy and I, and our children, are incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government, @LtGovOliver.
We ask that you all keep the Oliver family and all those who loved her in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/ty6drz7DgY
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) August 1, 2023
“When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lieutenant Governor Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word,” Governor Murphy said in a statement. “She had already made history as the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the General Assembly, and just the second Black woman in the nation’s history to lead a house of a state legislature. I knew then that her decades of public service made her the ideal partner for me to lead the State of New Jersey. It was the best decision I ever made.”
Under state’s constitution, Senate President Nick Scutari, also a Democrat, has now become the Garden State’s acting governor.
“I have all the full powers of the regular governor, so you can sign bills, laws, you can issue executive orders, declare state of emergencies, pardons, anything the governor can do, you can do,” Scutari said.
It has not been made immediately clear if Governor Murphy thinks he should cut his vacation short.