Aaron Rodgers’ season appears to have been shorter than Evelyn Williams’ tenure in the New Jersey Legislature, albeit under entirely different circumstances.
Assemblyman Donald Tucker, who had also been a Newark City Councilman for 31 years, passed on October 17, 2005 – 22 days before Election Day. He remained on the ballot and still won re-election in a landslide.
Campaigning for the 28th district Assembly seat began before Tucker’s funeral service; among the names mentioned were former Assemblymen William Payne and Wilfredo Caraballo, Freeholders Ralph Caputo and Blonnie Watson, Bloomfield Mayor Raymond McCarthy and Cleopatra Tucker, the late assemblyman’s widow.
On November 14, Democrats picked Evelyn Williams, a 52-year-old former Newark school board member and vice chair of the Essex County Democratic Committee who was once deputy mayor under Sharpe James. She faced Ralph Caputo, a Democratic freeholder who had served as a Republican assemblyman from 1968 to 1972, with 73% of the vote, 133-49.
She was sworn in as an assemblywoman on December 12, 2005.
Williams lasted only seven days in the Assembly before her arrest on shoplifting charges; she was accused of putting $14.99 price tags on a $49.99 comforter and a $59.99 set of sheets at the Variety Fair in Irvington and arrested on shoplifting charges.
Two days later, the Essex County Corrections Department fired her after discovering that she filed for and received illegal pension checks from the state.
That wasn’t Williams’ first controversy: she was president of the Newark Board of Education when the state took over the school system in the 1980s, and in 2002, she was reprimanded while working for the county jail for escorting a member of a major drug ring to a concert.
In a vetting failure, Williams’s driver’s license had been suspended thirteen times in the last decade; indeed, her license was suspended in December 2005 for failure to appear in court four days before she was sworn in as an assemblywoman.
Williams never returned to the statehouse but didn’t actually resign from the legislature. Instead, she served the remainder of Tucker’s unexpired term and Democrats then picked Oadline Truitt, a 65-year-old school librarian and a 30-year Democratic County Committeewoman from Newark’s South Ward, to take the seat Tucker had won posthumously.
Truitt won the unexpired term in 2006 but lost her seat in the 2007 Democratic primary. Caputo, a Republican assemblyman in the 1960s, staged a Trenton comeback and ran with Cleopatra Tucker. Caputo was the top vote-getter, and Tucker beat Stanley by 127 votes. Truitt ran fourth, finishing 350 votes behind Stanley.
The Newark City Council At-Large seat Tucker held from 1974 to 2005 was filled by Ras Baraka.