Just days after Republican Scott Brown notched an improbable victory in Massachusetts by declaring that the U.S. Senate seat he sought did not belong to the late Teddy Kennedy, newly sworn-in Assemblyman Gilbert “Whip” Wilson (D-Camden) used similar language in defending Donald Norcross’s move up to claim the 5th District seat vacated by Camden Mayor Dana Redd.
“I don’t think anybody can claim any seat,” said Wilson, when asked about the South Jersey Democratic Organization’s decision to back labor leader Donald Norcross, brother of Democratic Party power broker George Norcross III, as the replacement for Redd, in a district dominated by the City of Camden, where over half the residents are black.
“If you give the 5th District senate seat to an African American, you’re eliminating Latinos and everyone else,” Wilson said. “I think what you’re getting here now with this team is balance, as you have a Latino (Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden), an African American (Wilson), and a European American (Norcross). The bottom line is that senate seat should go to a person who wants the job.”
Sworn into office today, Wilson, who retired as a lieutenant in 1995 from the Camden Police Department after 26 years, described the last couple of months as a whirlwind.
He, Norcross and Fuentes are the brand new replacement trio for Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts (D-Camden), who retired last year; Redd, who became mayor of Camden in a force-out of Gwendolyn Faison on the occasion of Roberts’s impending retirement; and former Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden), dumped by the organization.
“It’s a strange situation for me,” said Wilson. “I’m very surprised I was selected, but very happy. It was a joyous mood at my swearing-in today, where I was joined by 50-odd people from Camden, including Mayor Redd.”
Wilson said he hasn’t yet formally received his committee assignments, but hopes to land veterans affairs and public safety.