By Nikita Biryukov | New Jersey Monitor
Secretary of State Tahesha Way became New Jersey’s third lieutenant governor Friday, filling a vacancy left by the August death of former Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.
“Like Sheila, I will dedicate every day of my life to fighting for the forgotten families of our state,” Way said during a brief ceremony preceding her swearing-in. “I will do everything in my power to bring down the cost of living, so no parent will have to suffer the indignity of choosing between putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their child’s head.”
Way, a former administrative law judge, has led the New Jersey Department of State throughout Gov. Phil Murphy’s tenure and was previously a Passaic County commissioner.
She also served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and, as New Jersey’s top election official, presided over the virtually all-mail 2020 election that shattered state turnout records.
“What Tahesha has demonstrated — time and again — is that she can handle the single most important responsibility of any lieutenant governor, and that is being ready to step in and serve as governor, if needed,” Murphy said. “She is brilliant. She is battle-tested. And she represents the best of New Jersey.”
Way will continue her role as secretary of state and is the second official in state history to hold both positions. Kim Guadagno, who was the state’s first lieutenant governor under Gov. Chris Christie, likewise simultaneously served as secretary of state.
Oliver, whose Aug. 1 death created the first-ever vacancy in the office of the lieutenant governor and whom Way called a cherished friend and mentor, was also commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.
“As lieutenant governor, I will have the solemn honor of building upon Sheila’s towering legacy. So, here is my promise to the people of New Jersey: Like Sheila, I will dedicate every day of my life to fighting for the forgotten families of our state,” Way said.
New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner performed Way’s swearing-in. She was joined by her husband, three of her four daughters, and her mother-in-law.
As secretary of state, Way has presided over numerous expansions to New Jersey’s voting law, including the introduction of early in-person voting, the formation of the state’s perpetual mail-in ballot list, and the extension of suffrage to people on parole or probation, among others.
She also has overseen the recovery of New Jersey’s tourism industry, which is expected to bring $48 billion in visitor spending this year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the first time.
“Together, we have exceeded our wildest expectations. Together, we inspired a record number of New Jerseyans to turn out and vote — like we saw in the last presidential election,” she said Friday. “And, together, we have strengthened our electoral system — and made our democratic process more open to every eligible voter.”