Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) will not seek re-election in 2022 and Robert J. Menendez, the son the senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey, has emerged as the front runner to succeed him, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
A formal announcement from Sires is expected before the end of the year.
Most of the Hudson County Democratic establishment appears to have settled on Menendez, a 36-year-old attorney and Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to replace Sires in a district where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election.
The 70-year-old Sires has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2006, when he won a special election after Bob Menendez left to serve in the Senate. Sires and Menendez are the only Hispanics to represent New Jersey in Congress.
Sires represents New Jersey’s 8th district, an overwhelmingly-Democratic district that includes parts of Hudson, Essex and Union counties. Sires won 74% on the vote in 2020 in a district that went from Joe Biden by a 73%-36% margin.
This will mark the end of a hugely successful, albeit unlikely, political career for Sires, who emigrated from Cuba at age 11 and later became a high school teacher and coach in his hometown of West New York.
Sires spent several years as a local political gadfly and won 27% as the Republican candidate for Congress in the same district in 1986 against the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Frank Guarini (D-Jersey City). He lost a bid for Hudson County Freeholder as a Republican in 1986, and bids for local office in West New York.
In 1993, Sires led a campaign to recall West New York Mayor Anthony DeFino. Voters recalled DeFino while simultaneously re-electing him. When DeFino left office two years later, Sires was the easy winner.
Sires became the ultimate insider: he switched parties, backed Republican Governor Christie Whitman in 1997, seized an Assembly seat in 1999 – he defeated incumbent Louis Romano (D-West New York) in the Democratic primary by nearly 10,000 votes — became Speaker two years later when Gov. James E. McGreevey wanted to dump Joseph V. Doria (D-Bayonne), and then went to Congress in 2006.
In the Democratic primary, he defeated Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas by a 72%-28% margin. He won the general election by a 78%-19% margin against Republican John Guarini, a cousin of the former congressman.
Sires dispatched a primary challenge from progressive Hector Oseguera by a 70%-27% margin in 2020.
Oseguera is a potential candidate in 2022. So is Jersey City Councilman James Solomon, who won a lopsided re-election victory in the downtown ward.
Sires’ retirement announcement will come as the state’s Legislative Redistricting Commission considers a new map. The open seat is unlikely to affect the ongoing negotiations.
He will be the 21st Democratic House member to not seek re-election so far. His retirement will also open up the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
Sires did not immediately return a 10 PM text message seeking comment.
An attorney who specializes in private equity funds, Menendez is among the youngest Port Authority commissioners in history, but also among a rare group that has worked at the bistate agency: while in law school, he was a fellow in the Port Commerce Department.