Sweeney Skips Delegate Breakfast Over Sponsor’s Support for Garrett

Sweeney is opting out of a delegate breakfast over one sponsor's support for anti-gay outlier Scott Garrett
Sweeney is opting out of a delegate breakfast over one sponsor’s support for anti-gay outlier Scott Garrett

PHILADELPHIA — Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) is following through on his pledge to skip Wednesday’s delegate breakfast over a sponsor’s continuing support for U.S. Representative Scott Garrett.

Garrett, who represents New Jersey’s fifth district, has courted controversy since withholding GOP campaign dues last summer. Garret cited the campaign arm’s “actively recruiting homosexual candidates” for Republican offices, and has seen several financial backers desert his campaign under pressure from state Democrats.

Energy firm PSE&G declined to stop its donations to a business-oriented political action committee whose favored candidates include Garrett.

Sweeney, a likely candidate for the 2017 gubernatorial election, opted out of this morning’s breakfast because of that decision. With the Philadelphia DNC a proving ground of sorts for Democratic primary rivals like Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, former Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) and State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), Sweeney is opting to make his statement with a conspicuous absence.

“As many of you may have heard, I have decided not to speak at this morning’s delegate breakfast because of PSE&G’s sponsorship of the event,” Sweeney wrote in a statement. “As I made clear in a public statement on Sunday, I would only address the delegation if PSE&G firmly committed to never contributing to Congressman Scott Garrett again (because of his bigoted anti-LGBTQ views).

“Seeing as they have been unwilling to make that commitment to their LGBTQ employees or the greater LGBTQ community, I will not be making an address to the attendees. Congressman Garrett’s callous disregard for the LGBTQ community cannot go unanswered or unchallenged.”

Sweeney held a reception for the New Jersey delegation on the Battleship New Jersey on Sunday night, where a banner draped across the ship read “Sweeney 2017.” Members of the Senate President’s staff said the banner referred to his Senate reelection campaign. Murphy is the only candidate to officially announce his gubernatorial bid so far.

See Sweeney’s full prepared remarks for this morning’s breakfast, where he takes aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump and Governor Chris Christie’s opposition to a state-level $15 minimum wage bill, below.

Last week, as America watched the Republican National Convention, we saw a group of people who represent America’s past. Their ideas and attitudes are focused on taking America back – literally back in time – a time where people had fewer rights, fewer protections and fewer opportunities to succeed.

Just look at their platform, drawn straight out of the Donald Trump playbook: eliminating the minimum wage, rolling back important environmental regulations, opposing Davis-Bacon, standing in the way of allowing workers their right to organize, denying basic rights to same sex couples – like marriage equality, blocking social justice reforms to fix a criminal justice system that’s imprisoning of too many of our young people…honestly, it was pretty scary to watch on TV.

It was even scarier to see our Governor standing there cheering along.  We all must remember that who our Governor is – here in New Jersey – truly matters.  His ridiculous fake trial was an insult to the judicial system and as I watched everyone cheering along, I wondered to myself – what country are we in?  What century?  This Trump platform is a direct attack on what I stand for – what we stand for as Democrats.

But now, here in Philadelphia – it’s our turn.

The rest of the nation can look at what we are doing in New Jersey as we stand up to this divisive, angry, us versus them mentality that was on such display last week.

Today, as we sit here, legislation that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour sits on the governor’s desk.  We know he won’t sign it, but I am not going to give up, and neither are you! We stand for supporting a real wage that gives every family in this state a chance to get out of poverty and rise up into the middle class.  We will go back to the voters next year because we know we have the people on our side.  Fighting for the people who can’t fight for themselves is what brought me here.

Everyday I get out of bed, I do it with for my daughter Lauren.  I do it to make a difference for those who need us the most.

The rights of working people brought me here.  My father is a labor leader and as a labor leader myself I am proud to carry on his fight…your fight…our fight.

I have committed my career to fighting for the worker, and the worker is strongest when organized.  It’s why we must fight to protect Davis-Bacon – which ensures that federal projects help our economy by protecting worker’s wages, and requiring safe working conditions.  Earning a fair wage and working under safe working conditions are not luxuries!  They’re the basis on which the American Dream is founded!
What we saw last week is a full-on attack on these values and a Trump Republican stance on social issues would take our country back to a very ugly time.

They are looking to take away way the rights of same sex couples.  Senator Weinberg, Steven Goldstein and I we fought hard for the recognition of same-sex couples and we cannot allow the election of a Republican President take that way.

The progress we have made in ensuring the fair treatment of all of our citizens, our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, to be whomever they are and love whomever they choose, cannot be reversed.
I am proud to work with the NAACP, the Black Issues Convention, the Latino Action Network, the ACLU, and so many others when then – state Senator, now Congressman Norcross, fought for the elimination of “debtors prisons.”  We have too many people in jail who have not been convicted of anything, simply because they could not afford to pay their fines.
I am horrified by what we saw in Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas.  But if America is to look at itself…it can’t be through just one mirror…we must see all sides of our society.  We must fight for the reforms that make sure the criminal justice system treats everyone equally.  Police involved fatalities must be investigated in the most neutral way possible, without prejudice.

Our future must be one of a higher minimum wage, a justice system that treats everyone equally, schools that educate all of our children, equal treatment of women in the workplace, building and maintaining a world class infrastructure.  This is the future I believe in, this is the future I know you believe in, and this is the future Hillary Clinton is going lead us towards.

Last week I watched the Republicans, and it always saddens me when they talk about “taking their country back.”

Well I have a message for them…you can’t have it back! As Democrats we stand ready to fight. Not to go backwards, but towards our future! To fight for our families, fight for our children and fight for a democratic vision we are all building together.

I have a message for the Republican Party both nationally and right across the river in New Jersey. Something will be taken back, because in not too long, we – the people in this room – are taking back the Governor’s office in New Jersey!

  Sweeney Skips Delegate Breakfast Over Sponsor’s Support for Garrett