Former Passaic Freeholder Tahesha Way named next New Jersey secretary of state
Gov.-elect Phil Murphy on Monday introduced former Passaic County Freeholder Tahesha Way as his choice for secretary of state, handing her a mandate to expand voter access and push back against President Donald Trump's administration.
The secretary of state is the chief election official, but also oversees the state's $44 billion tourism industry and is responsible for administering artistic, cultural and historical programs. Murphy said the position requires a "tested" leader who understands both business and law and "respects the vast cultures which make our state a melting pot." In Way, he said, he and Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver have found someone who fulfills those requirements and will "serve New Jersey with distinction."
Way, of Wayne, was appointed to the Passaic County Freeholder Board in 2006 and served as its director in 2009. She spent five years as an administrative law judge and taught law at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She is currently the special counsel for the county's Board of Social Services.
"I look forward to working with the governor-elect to make democracy real for all residents of New Jersey through maintaining and strengthening voting rights and common-ground efforts to modernize the voting process, and I hope to ensure the integrity of the voting process," she said during a news conference in Trenton, where she was joined by three of her four daughters and her husband, Charles, a former running back for the New York Giants.
Way, a native of the Bronx, received an undergraduate degree from Brown University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. She was once considered to be a running mate of Jon Corzine, the last Democratic governor.
Murphy laid out her priorities on Monday, with an emphasis on voter access. He highlighted Trump's voting integrity commission led by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whom Murphy referred to as "a lunatic from Kansas."
"We will ask her to stand up for the rights of New Jersey voters against the pressures from President Trump's voter suppression panel and others who want to restrict access to the ballot box. And I will ask her to take the lead on our efforts to modernize and expand the ability of residents to both register to vote and to cast their votes," Murphy said, citing automatic registration, physical early voting and allowing ex-offenders to vote as ways to achieve those goals.
Murphy, taking a dig at Republican Gov. Chris Christie, said Way will also have closer ties to cultural commissions. He named the New Jersey Israel Commission and Amistad Commission as two "that have been hollowed out and de-funded over the past eight years," he said.
"And, of course, I will look to her to help us rebuild and strengthen our economy," Murphy said.
Way must be confirmed by the Senate.