By Mark Koosau and Daniel Israel
Rep. Albio Sires, a Democrat who represents the 8th Congressional District of New Jersey which encompasses much of Hudson County, is retiring after eight terms in Congress.
“Working for the residents of New Jersey, and in particular the 8th Congressional District, has been the honor of a lifetime,” said Sires in a statement. “While my time in Congress will come to an end, my commitment to service remains as strong as ever.”
Born in Cuba before moving with his family to the United States in 1962, Sires entered politics by becoming mayor of West New York in 1995. He later won election to the New Jersey General Assembly in 2000 for the 33rd Legislative District, where he served as Speaker of the Assembly from 2002 to 2006.
He broke through barriers on both of those occasions as the first Hispanic to become mayor of West New York and Assembly Speaker.
Sires went on to Congress to represent the then-13th Congressional District seat that was formerly held by now-U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. Sires won both a special election to fill the remainder of Menendez’s term and the general election in 2006 for a full term.
Sires later won reelection to the 8th Congressional District in 2012 that was created from the 13th district after redistricting following the 2010 Census.
When asked about his reasons for retirement, he told Hudson County View that he thinks it’s “time to step down”, and has expressed disinterest in being a part of a Republican-led House which some anticipate following the 2022 midterm elections in Congress.
He later told NJ Advance Media of divisions between Democrats and Republicans, and that there was less willingness to compromise.
Endorsements stream in for potential successor
With talks of who will replace Sires already running rampant, the most likely candidate to replace him is rumored to be Robert Menendez Jr., son of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez Sr.
The New York Times reported on December 22 that Menendez Jr. “has told political leaders that he will run for Congress to replace Representative Albio Sires, who announced on Monday that he will not seek re-election.”
Menendez Jr., a commissioner on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, grew up in Union City and is being pegged as the person to run for the same congressional seat his father held before being elected to the Senate.
Menendez Jr. already has the backing of Sires himself for the seat in the House, with Sires telling Hudson County View that “there isn’t a better candidate out there,” regarding Menendez Jr. Additionally, State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack has endorsed Menendez Jr. too, confidently telling the New Jersey Globe: “He will be a great congressman.”
It is not clear how well received Menendez Jr. may be as a candidate with the Hudson County Democratic Organization, given the not-so-warm relationship between the Menendez family and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Recently this year however, Fulop told the New Jersey Globe that he voted for Sen. Menendez for reelection in 2018.
Meanwhile, Hudson County progressives will likely again put up a candidate against whoever the establishment selects in the 8th Congressional District, following candidate Hector Oseguera challenging Sires in the 2020 primaries.
On Tuesday, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla made it clear, as reported by Hudson County View, that he is not a contender for Sire’s post.
“While I’m honored and humbled to have been approached by members of the Sikh and South Asian community, along with other stakeholders to run for Congress, I’m 100% committed to serving the residents of Hoboken as Mayor,” Bhalla tweeted.
“There’s still a great deal to do the next four years, especially in the midst of a global health pandemic, and I look forward to continued public service in City Hall.”
Bhalla told The New Jersey Globe he looked forward to supporting the Hudson County Democratic Organization and has no plans to run for Congress.
The filing deadline for congressional elections in New Jersey is on April 1, 2022, with the primaries taking place on June 7.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com. Mark Koosau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.