The 30 Most Influential Women in NJ Politics, Elected and Non-Elected

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR KIM GUADAGNO. While Governor Chris Christie’s term might be ending, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno looks poised to make her own play for the job come 2017. With Christie’s presidential campaign taking him out of the state for much of the last year, Guadagno has often served as acting governor, something that has allowed her to test the reigns of the position.
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(Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
SEN. LORETTA WEINBERG. While Weinberg is 81, the senate majority leader from Bergen County’s legislative district 37 shows no signs of slowing down. The stalwart progressive has said she will run for her position again next year. She has been majority leader since 2012.
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(Photo: Alyana Alfaro for Observer)
MAGGIE MORAN. Moran is a managing partner of Kivvit. She has a critical role in the fight to bring casinos to northern New Jersey and resolve the Transportation Trust Fund. Before entering the work of public affairs, the influential Democratic Party voice was a staffer for both former Gov. Jon Corzine and the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. She is married to Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, a current candidate for Monmouth County freeholder.
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(Photo: Maggie Moran)
ASSEMBLYWOMAN SHAVONDA SUMTER. The assemblywoman from the 35th legislative district’s name is allegedly being floated for a lieutenant governor’s role by several Democratic candidates for governor in 2017. That in-demand status elevates Sumter to a high level of influence for the 2017 race. She has still not ruled out making her own run for governor. She also has deep ties to the Democratic establishment in Passaic County and is the goddaughter of New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie.
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(Photo: Max Pizarro for Observer)
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SEN. M. TERESA RUIZ. The district 27 state senator is potentially positioning to take over Senate President Steve Sweeney’s role if he becomes governor next year. The two have been working closely on an education platform and have recently made appearances together all throughout the state.
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(Photo: Max Pizarro for Observer)
CONGRESSWOMAN BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN. The congresswoman is the only female member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation. She is the first black woman to win a congressional seat in the state.
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(Photo: PolitickerNJ for Observer)
SEN. JENNIFER BECK. This Republican state senator from the 11th district has been serving in her position since 2008. She holds real clout in the state’s minority party and is one of the most influential elected Republicans in NJ.
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(Photo: Senate Republican Office)
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SUSAN D. WIGENTON. This U.S. district court judge is presiding over the high-profile Bridgegate trial. With the state obsessively watching for the final verdict, Wigenton is going to play a crucial role in the Bridgegate saga that has captured the attention of New Jersey residents, elected officials and media.
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(Photo: United States District Court for the District of New Jersey)
SEN. NIA GILL
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(Photo: Senate Majority Office)
SEN. DIANE ALLEN. This Republican Burlington County senator (district seven) has been serving in the state senate for nearly 20 years. She is currently deputy minority leader.
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(Photo: Observer)
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PATRIZIA 'TRISH' ZITA. The lobbyist co-founded the Kaufman Zita Group in 2007. She has paved the way for women in N.J. politics and played an influential role in many state elections.
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(Photo: Kaufmann Zita Group)
LIZETTE DELGADO-POLANCO. Delgado Polanco works as the vice-chair of the Democratic State Committee. Because of that, she is close to many in the state's majority party.
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(Photo: Observer)
SEN. SANDRA CUNNINGHAM. Cunningham currently serves as the Majority Whip in the N.J. state senate. The Hudson County Democrat has firmly aligned herself with Sweeney as he pursues the 2017 nomination while the rest of the Democrats in her county are siding with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. If Sweeney comes out ahead in the primary, that decision by Cunningham could pay off.
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(Photo: Observer)
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ASSEMBLYWOMAN HOLLY SCHEPISI. The assemblywoman is the only Republican woman representing Bergen County in the assembly or senate. While there are no announcements as to when it might happen, Schepisi is poised to move up to her district’s senate seat when current Senator Gerry Cardinale opts to retire from the post he has held since 1982.
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(Photo: Alyana Alfaro for Observer)
WILDA DIAZ. The Perth Amboy mayor is facing three opponents as she aims to win back her seat this November. If she wins, she will hold on to her title of New Jersey’s only currently serving Latina mayor.
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(Photo: Alyana Alfaro for Observer)
MARCIA MARLEY. The president of the grassroots progressive organization BlueWaveNJ may help shape the 2017 Democratic primary. BlueWaveNJ has thousands of volunteers ready to work for whichever Democratic candidate they favor.
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(Photo: Observer)
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SEN. LINDA GREENSTEIN. The state senate’s assistant majority leader assumed office in 2010. She is the first woman to hold the senate seat in legislative district 14.
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(Photo: New Jersey Legislature)
SEN. SHIRLEY TURNER. District 15 state Senator Shirley Turner’s opposition is one of the main reasons that the proposed 23-cent per gallon gas tax has failed to move forward.
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(Photo: Observer)
ANALILIA MEJIA. The executive director of Working Families.
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(Photo: Analilia Mejia)
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L. GRACE SPENCER. The former assemblywoman was confirmed to become a state Superior Court judge in Essex County back in July. That move puts the Newark native into a good position for further career moves. Though she is just starting her judgeship, it is possible that Spencer could one day become a member of New Jersey’s Supreme Court.
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ASSEMBLYWOMAN SHEILA OLIVER. The former assembly speaker has risen back into prominence recently. She represents the 34th legislative district.
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(Photo: New Jersey Legislature)
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN. The former New Jersey Governor has been vocally opposed to Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Because of that opposition, Whitman has gotten some elevated status in New Jersey in the past few months. Recently she had a sit-down with gubernatorial hopeful Shavonda Sumter, something that hints at a shift away from partisanship for Whitman.
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(Photo: TOM MIHALEK/AFP/Getty Images)
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ASSEMBLYWOMAN VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE. Huttle, like Spencer, is a deputy speaker in the Assembly. The Englewood Democrat could be a future assembly speaker. She is also potentially in line to become the senator from the 37th district.
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PolitickerNJ for Observer
DANA REDD. Camden will have a big GOTV role in the coming 2017 gubernatorial election. As mayor, Redd will play a big part in the mobilization for the Democratic candidate. Before becoming mayor, Redd served in the New Jersey Senate from 2005 to 2010.
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(Photo: Observer)
JEANNINE LARUE. LaRue is close to Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. The Trenton insider has a long history as a lobbyist and has worked with former Governor Jon Corzine and at Rutgers University. Currently, she is Senior Vice President at the Kaufman Zita Group and CEO of the LaRuelist Group.
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(Photo: Observer)
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HETTY ROSENSTEIN. Rosenstein is the director of New Jersey’s branch of the Communications Workers of America, one of the largest unions representing workers in the Garden State.
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(Photo: Observer)
JENNIFER HOLDSWORTH. The NJ state director for Hillary for America has been busy in the build-up to the presidential election. She has worked with Cory Booker, Valerie Vainiere Huttle and former gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono.
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(Photo: Jennifer Holdsworth)
IDIDA RODRIGUEZ. The veteran Democratic Party insider leads 1868 with Leroy Jones (chairman of the Essex County Democratic Party).
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(Photo: Observer)
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JULIE DIAZ. The former Obama for America organizer now works as NJ Political Director at SEIU Local 32BJ.
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(Photo: Observer)
MARY PAT CHRISTIE. With her husband a lame duck governor, Mary Pat’s influence is also waning in the state. However, the state’s first lady still an influential figure in the NJ political spectrum.
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(Photo: Alyana Alfaro for Observer)
PEG SCHAFFER. Somerset County will hold some importance in the upcoming 2017 Democratic primary. As chair of the Somerset Democrats, Schaffer and her group’s endorsement will factor into that race.
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(Photo: Observer)
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TAI COOPER. As the director of public policy for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Cooper plays a highly influential role in the administration of the state’s largest city
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(Photo: Observer)
ESTHER SUAREZ. The new Hudson County prosecutor was sworn in to her position in July. She is the first woman to hold the post of prosecutor for the county.
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(Photo: Hudson County Prosecutor's Office)
MARY PAT ANGELINI. While the former legislative district 11 Republican lost re-election at the hands of Democrats last year, Angelini seems poised to make another run at elected office. She has been visible at events and has been chiming in on topics like the NJEA.
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(Photo: Observer)
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KAREN KOMINSKY. The long-time Trenton insider and lobbyist launched her own firm, K Street Public Affairs, last year.
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(Photo: K Street Public Affairs)
SEN. DAWN ADDIEGO. The state senator from the state’s eighth legislative district was elected to the senate in 2010. She has since made her name among South Jersey Republicans.
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(Photo: New Jersey Senate)
LUCILLE PANOS. The newly elected Republican chair from Middlesex County served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio earlier this summer. She is also an Old Bridge councilwoman.
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(Photo: Lucille Panos)

Whether they be elected officials, lobbyists or union leaders, women are a force in New Jersey politics. In order to recognize those women, Observer PolitickerNJ complied a list of who the most influential female political figures are in the state and how they contribute.

Click through to see who made the cut.

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.