Home>Highlight>Elba Perez-Cinciarelli, former assemblywoman, dies at 76

Former Assemblywoman Elba Perez-Cinciarelli. Photo: Facebook.

Elba Perez-Cinciarelli, former assemblywoman, dies at 76

Former Jersey City Education Association leader served in the legislature from 2002 to 2004

By David Wildstein, July 04 2020 12:32 am

Former Assemblywoman Elba Perez-Cinciarelli (D-Jersey City), the first Latina to represent Hudson County in the New Jersey Legislature and an early supporter of same-sex marriage, died on Friday.  She was 76.

Hudson County Democrats picked Perez-Cinciarelli, a Jersey City Education Association leader and chairwoman of the Jersey City Housing Authority, to run for an open 31st district Assembly seat in 2001.

“She was the epitome of a role model and her do good attitude was a tribute to her upbringing as a strong Puerto Rican woman,’ said a close friend, Hudson County Clerk Junior Maldonado.  “The good lord has made room for another angel.”

The six-term state senator from the district, Edward O’Connor (D-Jersey City), did not seek re-election in order to seek a Superior Court judgeship.  Joseph Charles (D-Jersey City) gave him his Assembly seat to run for Senate and Perez-Cinciarelli was tapped to run for the Assembly.

In the primary election, Perez-Cinciarelli defeated Jersey City Councilwoman Melissa Holloway by 5,981 votes.  She ran 783 votes behind her running mate, Assembly Minority Leader Joseph V. Doria, Jr. (D-Bayonne).

Doria and Perez-Cinciarelli easily won the general election.  She swamped Republican Ira Jersey by 16,750 votes in a part of Hudson County that hasn’t sent a Republican to the legislature since 1920.

Perez-Cinciarelli served on the Assembly Budget Committee and played a key role in blocking a bid to reduce prescription drug assistance for senior citizens.

Political power shifted in Jersey City during Perez-Cinciarelli’s single term in Trenton.

Doria had been expected to become Assembly Speaker after Democrats regained control of the Assembly in 2001, but Gov.-elect James E. McGreevey helped engineer a deal that instead made Albio Sires (D-West New York) the Speaker.

Glenn Cunningham was elected mayor in 2001, defeating Tom DeGise in a runoff held three weeks before the primary election.

Holloway was Cunningham’s first cousin and former staffer, but Perez-Cinciarelli was already on the organization line.

Charles decided to leave the Senate after less than two years to become a Superior Court Judge and Cunningham decided that he wanted the Senate seat.

In a primary that divided the Hudson Democrats, Cunningham headed an off-the-line slate that included Louis Manzo, a former freeholder and Jersey City mayoral candidate, and Bayonne Councilman Anthony Chiappone.

Perez-Cinciarelli and Doria ran with the organization candidate for Senate, Jersey City Council President L. Harvey Smith.  McGreevey took sides in the primary, endorsing Smith, Doria and Perez-Cinciarelli.

Cunningham beat Smith, 48%-39%; Chiappone and Manzo ousted Doria and Perez-Cinciarelli.

Doria, who had also become mayor of Bayonne in 2002, ran 481 votes behind Manzo, and Perez-Cinciarelli trailed Chiappone by 1,447 and Manzo by 1,390.

She later returned to the Jersey City Housing Authority under Mayor Jeremiah Healy.

Perez-Cinciarelli was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the Bronx at age nine.  Seven years later, her family moved to Jersey City.  She was a 1974 graduate of Jersey City State College.

A public school teacher, she also served on the board of trustees of the Fairmount Housing Corporation.  She spent 25 years on the executive board of the Jersey City teacher’s union.

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