Senate President Pro-Tempore Sandra Cunningham was taken by ambulance to Jersey City Medical Center this morning for treatment of a non-life threatening health issue that presents a question as to whether she will be able to complete her current term in the New Jersey Senate.
The New Jersey Globe has confirmed that police were called to Cunningham’s home following a still unspecified event. The senator is currently undergoing a battery of tests.
The 72-year-old Cunningham, a Democratic state senator since 2007, has been dealing with some personal health issues and was not in Trenton last week for a short voting session. She did not participate remotely even that option was made available to her.
Prior to that vote, a physician treating Cunningham had suggested that she not participate in the Senate proceedings, which included the confirmation of Matt Platkin as attorney general. She was initially recorded as being present on a quorum call, but the official record was adjusted to show her as absent.
In 2021, Cunningham was charged with drunk driving after she crashed into cars parked near her home. But blood tests showed no presence of alcohol, and she was eventually cleared. Her health situation played heavily in a decision by Democrats not to support her for Senate Majority Leader following the retirement of Loretta Weinberg.
It is not clear whether Cunningham’s health has led to discussions with colleagues or party leaders about her future in the Senate. Few Hudson County political insiders expect her to seek re-election to a four-year term in 2023, although Cunningham has made no public announcement regarding her political intentions.
In August, State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) resigned for health reasons after serving nearly 36 years in the Senate.
Senators have dealt with health issues differently over the years. Rice resigned early, as did Wayne Dumont (R-Phillipsburg), who gave up his seat in 1990 with about sixteen months remaining in her term. Citing health issues, Byron Baer (D-Englewood) resigned from the Senate in September 2005.
Other lawmakers with health issues simply did not seek re-election. Walter Kavanaugh (R-Somerville) did not seek re-election in 2007 and died just a few hours before his term was set to expire on January 7, 2008.
Democrats have a 24-16 majority in the Senate.