The state Senate this afternoon warmly welcomed state Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-5) to the chamber after she assumed the oath of office.
Cruz-Perez filled the seat left vacant by U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) who himself was sworn in to Congress in November.
“It is my honor to be chosen to represent the residents of the Fifth District, who have always supported me,” said Cruz-Perez. “I am thrilled to be coming on board with Assemblymen Fuentes and Wilson, two strong advocates for the district and the state.”
The first Latina elected to the New Jersey Legislature, Cruz-Perez served in the General Assembly from 1995 to 2010.
Multiple colleagues praised the popular South Jersey lawmaker.
“You are going to be a great senator,” state Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11) told the upper chamber’s newest member.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-21) paid tribute, noting that many lawmakers knew Cruz-Perez from her days in the Assembly.
“She has an infectious smile,” said state Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1). “She is a warm and loving and caring individual. I was so excited when I found out you were going to be the replacement.”
State senators M. Teresa Ruiz and Nellie Pou – the two Latinas in the chamber – rejoiced in the presence of the third Hispanic woman in the chamber.
But Cruz-Perez offered something for everyone, it seemed.
Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) rose in appreciation.
“She was in the assembly when I came in… she was very nice about it, teaching me the ropes,” said the movement conservative Republican. “We have a lot in common. She served in the Army over in Germany, as I did. It’s nice to have an Army veteran.”
State Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14) told senators that lest they get too easily won over by the new senator’s good manners and charm, “She’s tough.”
Camden Mayor Dana Redd – who held the 5th District senate seat prior to Norcross – joined Cruz-Perez on her first day in the senate.
On the rostrum, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) turned to the chamber’s newest member.
“Nilsa, I think it’s all down from here,” Sweeney said.
Cruz-Perez’s accomplishments in the Assembly include authoring laws changing the composition of the Executive Commission on Ethical Standards and the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, establishing a grant program for Sheriff’s Departments to purchase body armor; allowing the eviction of certain offenders from public housing projects; and restructuring of the State’s Child Protective Services Division, as well as repealing the last New Jersey law discriminating against any ethnic group.
“I’m ready to get down to business with my colleagues in the Senate, many of whom I knew in the Assembly, to fight for our working men and women,” Cruz-Perez said.
The Senate will meet again on Thursday for their next voting session.