Paul J. McCurrie, who served in the New Jersey State Assembly from 1962 to 1964, died on May 15. He was 91.
McCurrie was a 32-year-old attorney and U.S. Navy veteran when the Hudson County Democratic organization picked him to run for one of eight at-large Assembly seats in 1961. He ran on a ticket that included incumbent Assembly Speaker Maurice V. Brady (D-Jersey City), and the legendary Union City Mayor William Vincent Musto.
The organization slate easily won the primary election, with one off-the-line candidate, Frank Gorman of Bayonne, finishing 48,461 votes behind the sixth-place finisher. McCurrie came in fourth and finished 962 votes ahead of Musto.
In heavily Democratic Hudson County, which had not sent a Republican to the legislature since 1920, McCurrie defeated the top GOP vote-getter, Edward T. Magee, by 51,829 votes.
Democrats retained their majority in the Assembly in 1961, and Hudson County Democrats – through their party boss John V. Kenny – had initially agreed to support J. Edward Crabiel (D-Milltown) for majority leader. Crabiel was being pushed by Middlesex Democratic boss David Wilentz, but Gov.-elect Richard J. Hughes, at the urging of Essex Democratic boss Dennis Carey, leaned on Kenny to get the post for Elmer Matthews (D-South Orange).
As an assemblyman, McCurrie sponsored legislation to stiffen New Jersey’s wiretapping law by making telephone eavesdropping, as well as listening in on jury deliberations and improperly obtaining telegraph messages, a misdemeanor.
He also served on the Transfer Inheritance Tax Law Study Commission and opposed proposals to create a sales tax.
McCurrie did not seek re-election to a second term in 1963. In those days, Kearny Democrats got one slot on the Assembly ticket and it was local custom to set term limits and rotate legislators after a single term.
After replacing one-term Assemblyman Edward G. Madden (D-Kearny) in 1961, was replaced by Kearny Councilman Howard Fairhurst in 1963. The Kearny seat continued to be rotated – John McLaughlin in 1965, Norman Doyle in 1967, Joseph Healey in 1969, and David Wallace in 1971 – until John F. Cali, the secretary to the warden of the Hudson County Jail, won the seat in 1973.
Kearny and Harrison were redistricted into a North Ward legislative district and Cali ran with Michael F. Adubato (D-Newark), the brother of Newark political powerhouse Stephen Adubato, Sr. and the uncle of television and radio personality Steve Adubato, Jr. The Senate seat that year was won by independent Anthony Imperiale, the vigilante Newark city councilman. Imperiale lost his Senate seat in 1977 and in 1979 ran as a Republican and unseated Cali.
Cali was the last assemblyman from Kearny.
The term limits rule applied only to the Kearny seat. Musto served in the Assembly for 20 years until winning a State Senate seat in 1967. Before the U.S. Supreme Court’s One-Man, One-Vote decision, Hudson County’s lone Senate seat was held by Jersey City, which also had two Assembly seats. Bayonne, Union City and Kearny also had Assembly seats, and the sixth seat rotated between Hoboken and the other Hudson municipalities.
After leaving the legislature, McCurrie served as in Kearny as town attorney, as well as the attorney for the Planning Board, the Board of Adjustment and the Municipal Utilities Authority. He was a longtime Democratic county committeeman in Kearny’s 4th Ward.
McCurrie mounted a political comeback in 1997 when he challenged 4th Ward Councilwoman Carole Haciey in the Democratic primary. He had the backing of the Hudson County Democratic organization, which was supporting John Campbell over former councilman Peter McIntyre for the chance to take on Republican Mayor Leo Vartan.
He lost by one vote, 281 to 280.
The Campbell slate had run on the organization line with Rep. Rob Andrews (D-Haddon Heights), while McIntyre was bracketed with State Sen. James E. McGreevey (D-Woodbridge), the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
There was also a full fight for control of the county committee that year, when H. Leslie McCurrie, the brother of the former assemblyman, was the Democratic Municipal Chairman and the business representative for the International Union of Operative Engineers Local 825.
Les McCurrie lost that race by two votes, 30 to 28, to Steve Marks, an aide to Hudson County Executive Bob Janiszewski.
McIntyre defeated incumbent Leo Vartan in the general election by 119 votes. Vartan is the last mayor in Hudson County to have been elected as a Republican.
McCurrie also served as president of the Hudson County Bar Association.
He was an ensign in the U.S. Navy and served as the navigator aboard the USS Marias.
His wife of 60 years, Liz, predeceased him three days earlier. They are survived by three children, including Kearny Councilwoman, Susan McCurrie, and a grandson.
A memorial will take place at a later date.