New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy named his longtime secretary of state, Tahesha L. Way, lieutenant governor on Friday, five weeks after his former second-in-command, Sheila Y. Oliver, died in office.
Ms. Way, 51, was sworn in at the State House in Trenton by the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, Stuart Rabner.
Ms. Way became secretary of state in 2018, near the start of Mr. Murphy’s first term, and was credited at the onset of the pandemic two years later with deftly steering the state through a presidential primary and general election held for the first time almost entirely by mail.
“Tahesha has set a new and high standard for defending democracy,” Mr. Murphy said as he announced her appointment.
“Tahesha has demonstrated that she can handle the single most important responsibility of any lieutenant governor,” Mr. Murphy added, “and that is to step in to serve.”
Ms. Oliver, 71, a trailblazer who was the first Black woman elected to statewide office in New Jersey, had been serving as acting governor in late July as Mr. Murphy vacationed in Italy. She was rushed to the hospital on July 31 and died the next day.
“I will have the solemn honor of building upon her towering legacy,” Ms. Way said, noting that her guiding principle in office would be “freedom, fairness and equal justice for all.”
Mr. Murphy had 45 days to name a successor to Ms. Oliver. Next month, he is expected to travel to Asia on an economic development trip for more than a week, a period that will likely be one of Ms. Way’s first opportunities to step into the role of acting governor.
Before becoming secretary of state, Ms. Way, a graduate of Brown University who earned a law degree from the University of Virginia, served as a county commissioner in Passaic County and an administrative law judge.
She lives in Wayne, N.J., with her husband, Charles Way, a former fullback for the New York Giants, and their four daughters.
Ms. Way becomes just the third lieutenant governor in New Jersey history.
Residents voted to create the post in 2005 to address concerns about the line of succession after two former governors stepped down in less than four years — Christine Todd Whitman, who left office in early 2001 to join President George W. Bush’s administration, and James E. McGreevey, who resigned toward the end of 2004.