State Sen. Ronald Rice, a fiercely independent former Newark cop who has served in the upper house since 1986 and as chair of the Legislative Black Caucus for the past 18 years, will retire at the end of the month.
The 76-year-old Rice has been in poor health and has not attended recent Senate meetings in person. His wife, Shirley, died two years ago.
It is with a full heart that I tender my resignation from the Senate effective August 31, 2022, Rice, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to his Senate colleagues. Despite the fervor of my commitment to the office and the depth of my dedication to my constituents and the people of New Jersey, circumstances beyond my control now force my retirement from this distinguished body.”
Rice penned a separate letter to members of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Working with the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus has been the most rewarding and meaningful endeavor of my professional life, he wrote. It has been the highest privilege and one that I’ve considered sacred to sculpt our corner of America into something that more closely resembles liberty and justice for all.’
Rice’s decision will trigger a special election in November to fill the remainder of his term in the solidly Democratic 28th Legislative District. Democratic county committee members in the district will have to elect an interim senator to fill the seat until November.
InsiderNJ first reported Rice’s retirement.
Rice, a U.S. Marine Corp. veteran from the Vietnam War and a former member of the Newark City Council, focused on racial and social justice issues throughout his career, was independent of the political machines that dominate politics in North Jersey and often tangled with Democratic power brokers. He was also an early backer of Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2017, when most of the state’s Democratic establishment was lining up between then-Senate President Steve Sweeney and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.