by Ricardo Kaulessar
Glenn Cunningham, Louis Manzo and Anthony Chiappone were already sworn in
officially as State Senator and Assemblymen of the 31st District
respectively on Tuesday at the State House in Trenton at a ceremony that
took place before Governor James McGreevey's State of the State address.
But for the nearly 1,000 in attendance who came out in near freezing
temperatures on Wednesday night for the swearing in ceremony for the new
State Senator and Assemblymen held at St. Peter College's Yanitelli Center,
it was as if the three candidates had won the election all over again.
City employees, political supporters, family members, visiting
dignitaries and local well-wishers packed the athletic center to witness a
new political chapter in the careers of the three men who were feted on
The mistress of ceremonies was City Councilwoman Viola Richardson opened
the evening by introducing the three honorees with newly elected Assemblymen
Manzo and Chiappone coming up to the stage escorted by their families. Then
newly elected State Senator Cunningham with wife Sandra Bolden Cunningham at
his side made their way to the stage.
It is finally herethe day where we will recognize three individuals who
have weathered the storm, who have gone through hell and back. And three
people who are victorious. Who have won the fight, who have won the race,'
said Richardson in her introduction of the three men with reference to last
year's particularly nasty campaign amongst two opposing Hudson County
Democrat factions for seats in the 31st District.
Throughout the evening, a number of speakers gave their testimonials and
prayers to the new officials bound for the State House. Amongst them, State
Senators Nia Gill (D-Montclair) and Ray Lesniak (D-Union), and Kearny Mayor
Al Santos who has been one of the few mayoral allies in Hudson County that
Cunningham and his Hudson County Reform Democrats Organization has had since
the split with the Hudson County Democratic Party in 2001.
About a year ago, Hudson County politicians were having what's called
leadership meetings and some people were not invited. (Cunningham) told me
one thing I've always remembered. It's not that invitation; it's not them
calling a meeting that makes you a leader. It's the people that makes you a
leader, said Santos.
First Lady Sandra Bolden Cunningham gave a stirring testimonial to her
husband before he would take his oath of office, citing his faith in God in
helping him to achieve his victory over his Democratic opposition whom she
admonished for not knowing who they were running against.
They didn't know that he asked God first. They didn't know that when he
was trying to become State Senator, it wasn't about him seeking power; it
was about empowering the people of the 31st District. But I have one thing
to say --- they know it now, said Mrs. Cunningham.
Then came the swearing-in ceremonies that replicated what took place on
Tuesday. Each one was sworn in separately by a State Superior Court Judge as
part of the official procedure in assigning them their titles.
Taking the oath of office first was Anthony Chiappone, accompanied by his
wife Diane, who will be representing the Bayonne portion of the district.
Afterward, Chiappone opened his remarks by pausing for a moment to scan the
crowd before thanking them for their support in his successful campaign for
Assemblyman. He then thanked State Senator Cunningham for being head of the
winning political team that defeated an opposition that included Chiappone's
Bayonne rival, former leader of the State Assembly Joseph Doria.
"I will not be an assemblyperson that you just see during election time.
I will be someone that you can pick the phone up and call anytime. I will be
someone that you can feel free to stop into my office and see me or one of
my staff, or call up my wife Diane and say simply Diane, can I get a hold
of Tony, I have a problem," said Chiappone striking an earnest tone.
Sworn in next was the other newly elected Assemblyman for the 31st
District Louis Manzo, former Hudson County Freeholder and former head of the
Jersey City Department of Health, who brought an entourage of nieces and
nephews to the stage.
Manzo peppered his thank you speech with quotes from noted figures of the
past such as John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Martin Luther King, and incisive
comments and statistics about the important political issues that will need
to be tackled by the State Assembly in the upcoming Legislative session.
He also announced his sponsorship several upcoming bills including Bill
A572 known as the Smart Homestead Rebate Bill, which if approved will
authorize the placing of an one-tenth of one percent surcharge on incomes
over $155,000 and an one percent surcharge on incomes over $1,000,000 in
order to remedy what he saw as an increasingly unfair situation facing the
majority of low and middle income New Jersey taxpayers.
"Of New Jersey's 2.7 million tax filers, 2.5 million make less than
$155,000 yet pay six cents of every dollar they earned to fund school
operations. There are only 200,000 income fliers in New Jersey who make more
than $155,000 but they pay only a penny of every dollar they earn toward
school taxes. My friends, something is wrong and the Smart Bill is cure for
these ills," said Manzo.
Then the highlight of the occasion as Jersey City Mayor Glenn D.
Cunningham became State Senator Glenn D. Cunningham by being sworn into
office in front of a standing hometown crowd by State Superior Court Judge
Joseph Charles, the former 31st District State Senator whose seat will be
filled by Cunningham when the State Legislative session starts on January
Joining State Senator Cunningham and his wife on stage was his younger
sister Diane who traveled from Atlanta for the event. Cunningham in his
usual breezy, jokey manner thanked God, then his wife whom he acknowledged
for helping him to make the decision to become State Senator by referring to
her as someone "who refused to be a woman that's just behind her man. She's
got to be besides him, in front of him sometimes, kicking him from behind."
Cunningham also thanked his political team, various local and state
politicians and the voters in the room for helping him during his State
Senate campaign, as he promised to make good on recouping the money that was
cut by the State a few years ago.
"We were outspent to five to one. And workers from all over the state
were brought into Jersey City to try to stop us but because of you, they
couldn't. They had many advantages but there's one that we had that couldn't
be beat. And I'm looking at that advantage right now. God bless all of you,
you're the advantage," said Cunningham.
The mayor also cited not only the various accomplishments of Jersey City
during his term including a decrease in crime through various social
programs, the continued progress of the Waterfront as the economic center of
the state but also the ills that afflict the city and the state such as
unemployment and an unequal distribution of wealth which he will make a
priority in Trenton to cure.
After the ceremony, attendees were mostly elated at the prospect of their
Mayor being their State Senator representing their interests along with his
Sergio Lamboy, Director of the JC Dept. of Health & Human Services, was
positive that the Cunningham, Manzo and Chiappone team will all be
successful in pursuing legislation on health issues including finding funds
for drug addiction program as the 31st District has one of the highest rates
of drug addiction in the state.
Hudson County Republican Party Chairman Jose Arango, himself a former
state Assemblyman and usually on the opposite side of Cunningham on many
issues showered words of praise and respect as he believed that Cunningham
and his team will do a better job than previous representatives for the
district and will show a different face of Hudson County politics.
"I am here tonight because these people represent a change. (Cunningham)
represents the people not the politics."
But others who wanted to remain unnamed were not sure if having the dual
jobs of Mayor and State Senator will work out but are willing to have an
open mind and are curious to see how the next two years unfold.
In other news, Cunningham recently named two new hires for his State
Senate staff. Dejon Morris as his office manager who will be in charge of
constituent services, operating the Jersey City office to address the
concerns of those residents of the district. Morris was formerly an employee
of the Jersey City Department of Cultural Affairs.
The other new employee will be Tralone Shorter who will be the
legislative director operating out of both Trenton and Jersey City. Shorter
worked previously in the office of US Senator Frank Lautenberg, most
recently as a special projects manager and brings a wealth of experience
working in Trenton and in Washington D.C.
So far, Cunningham and Louis Manzo have their staffs in place but Anthony
Chiappone is still working toward having a staff in place before the end of
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