Legendary Newark politician Anthony Carrino, a former Newark police officer who represented the North Ward on the city council for 28 years, has passed away.
Carrino was one of Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson’s fiercest opponents during the twelve years that the two served together. His final term on the Newark council overlapped with the four years U.S. Senator Cory Booker served as the Central Ward councilman.
He challenged Council President Frank Megaro for the North Ward seat and won in 1974.
Carrino’s candidacy was boosted by Megaro’s vote in support of a the controversial Kawaida Towers housing project in the North Ward that was supported by poet Amiri Baraka, the father of current Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. In the early 1970s, the North Ward was still heavily Italian-American.
Turnout in the North Ward was high due to the candidacy of State Sen. Anthony Imperiale (I-Newark) for mayor against first-term incumbent Gibson. Imperiale had led the opposition to Kawaida Towers.
Carrino was one three council candidates to avoid a runoff, along with Sharpe James (South Ward) and Michael Bottone (West Ward).
During his second month on the council, Carrino faced an often-violent five-day demonstration in the North Ward’s Puerto Rican community. He strongly criticized Gibson, who had ordered police to act with restraint.
In an especially memorable moment in 1976, Carrino, Imperiale and a group of supporters stormed Gibson’s city hall office in protest of a new North Ward police commander. Carrino used his shoulder to break down the door and at one point, Gibson’s bodyguard aimed his gun at Carrino.
Carrino wanted a police commander who lived in the North Ward. The man Gibson appointed was a resident of Woodbridge. Assault charges were filed against Carrino, but they were eventually dismissed after a grand jury empaneled by Essex County Prosecutor Joseph Lordi decline to indict him.
Instead, a municipal court judge from East Orange found Carrino guilty of leading the demonstration. He was given a six-month suspended jail sentence, six months on probation, and was fined $850.
In 1977, Carrino endorsed Rep. Jim Florio (D-Runnemede) for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Florio, then a two-term congressman, was among a large group of challengers to incumbent Gov. Brendan Byrne in the Democratic primary. The Essex County Democratic organization had endorsed former State Sen. Ralph DeRose (D-South Orange).
Carrino was re-elected in 1978.
He ran for Essex County Sheriff in 1979, challenging four-term incumbent John Cryan in the Democratic primary. County Executive Peter Shapiro had narrowly beaten Cryan in the 1978 primary and recruited Carrino in a bid to take Cryan out.
Cryan won by a 2-1 margin, 63%-30%, with 7% going to former Essex County Supervisor Philip Rotondo. Gibson backed Cryan.
In 1982, Carrino backed City Council President Earl Harris for mayor against Gibson. Carrino also won re-election that year.
Carrino challenged State Sen. John Caufield in the 1983 Democratic primary, but lost 61%-33%.
Carrino endorsed Sharpe James in his successful bid to oust Gibson in 1986. He was re-elected to the council that year by a 57%-43% margin after a bitter campaign against Fran Adubato, the wife of North Ward giant Steve Adubato, Sr.
In 1994, Carrino was part of a group of Democrats who publicly endorsed Jim Treffinger for Essex County Executive against East Orange Mayor Cardell Cooper.
Re-elected in 1990, 1994 and 1998, Carrino left the council in 2002 after losing his bid for re-election to an eighth term to Hector Corchado.
Last year, a new public housing complex in the North Ward was named Carrino Plaza in honor of the former councilman.
Carrino had been a decorated Newark police officer and later worked as an English teacher at Barringer High School. Later, he worked for the Essex County Department of Public Safety.
He was one of seven Newark City Councilmen who had previously served as police officers. The others: Ronald Rice, Hank Martinez, Michael Bottone, Anthony Giuliano, John A. Brady, and Corchado. Newark has never elected a firefighter to the council.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley), who represented the North Ward in the State Assembly from 1968 to 1972, said that he and Carrino were boyhood friends.
“We had a lot of history together,” Caputo told the New Jersey Globe. “I had a lot of respect for him. He was a great campaigner. I’m going to miss him.”