Sweeney Center for Public Policy launched at Rowan University

Matt Rourke, File/AP Photo

Former Senate President Steve Sweeney’s plans for a policy center are now official.

Details: The Steve Sweeney Center for Public Policy will be housed at Rowan University in Gloucester County, university President Ali Houshmand announced Wednesday. The center's mission, according to a press release, is to conduct “evidence-based research, support workforce development and formulate answers to New Jersey’s most complex policy issues.”

Rowan, which was already planning to establish a policy center focused on New Jersey issues in 2021, now offers a graduate degree in public policy.

Mark Magyar, who served as Sweeney’s Senate policy director, has been appointed as the center's founding director. Magyar also will teach courses in state and local government as well as in public finance.

Context: Sweeney, who left office in January after his stunning loss last November to Republican Edward Durr, a virtually unknown candidate, floated the idea for a think tank back in December.

Sweeney, who was New Jersey's longest-serving Senate president, denies he has said he’s running for governor in 2025 and instead says he is keeping his options open, and that includes another run for his old Senate seat. But a source said in December that Sweeney had told dozens of private labor leaders he was preparing for the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2025, when Murphy will term out.

In 2015, Phil Murphy set up a think tank called New Start New Jersey, making it easy for him to tour the state, meet with influential people and talk policy, allowing him to run for governor without officially announcing.

What they are saying: Houshmand said the new center at Rowan will tackle the “toughest of issues.”

“We are pleased and honored that Senator Sweeney accepted our invitation to help guide the public policy center we envisioned,” Houshmand said. “Having worked for decades with both Democratic and Republican administrations, he has built relationships across the aisle to develop policy and enact change to improve New Jersey.”

Sweeney said in a statement that New Jersey needs an “independent bipartisan” public policy center that brings together experts and researchers. Among the issues he wants to examine: growing the state’s economy, developing the workforce and making the state more affordable.