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New Jersey Lt. Gov. suddenly dies while serving as acting governor after hospitalization for unknown reasons
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

New Jersey Lt. Gov. suddenly dies while serving as acting governor after hospitalization for unknown reasons

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D) unexpectedly died on Tuesday. She was 71 years old.

"It is with incredible sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey," Oliver's family said in a statement.

"She was not only a distinguished public servant but also our cherished daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and hero," the statement added. "May her memory be a source of comfort and strength to all who knew her."

Oliver, who was serving as acting governor at the time of her death because Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is out of state, was hospitalized on Monday for an undisclosed medical issue. As a result, New Jersey state Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) assumed power as acting governor.

Murphy's spokesperson, Mahen Gunaratna, said on Monday that Oliver was receiving "medical care" but declined to elaborate on why she was admitted to the hospital, the Associated Press reported.

Oliver's cause of death remains unknown.

In a statement, Gov. Murphy said he and his wife are "incredibly saddened and distraught to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government." He explained that selecting Oliver as his running mate in 2017 "was the best decision I ever made," describing her as a "trailblazer in every sense of the word."

"She brought a unique and invaluable perspective to our public policy discourse and served as an inspiration to millions of women and girls everywhere, especially young women of color," he added. "Beyond all of that, she was an incredibly genuine and kind person whose friendship and partnership will be irreplaceable."

Scutari will remain in power as acting governor until Murphy returns from Italy in mid-August.

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