Joseph Menza, who has a six vote lead in his bid to become Mayor of Hillside, has a political pedigree: his distant cousin, Alexander Menza, was one of the state’s most respected legislators during the six years he spent in Trenton. Alex Menza began his career when he won a Hillside Township Committee seat in 1966, at age 34. He was Mayor in 1969, and he won a seat in the State Assembly in 1971. In 1973, he challenged Republican incumbent Frank McDermott (R-Westfield), 49, who had served as Senate President and run unsuccessfully for the 1969 GOP nomination for Governor. Menza won 70% of the vote in Hillside (which was politically competitive in those days) and beat McDermott 57%-43% in a Republican-leaning district.
Menza grew frustrated with the Legislature, and decided not to run for a second term in 1977. In 1978, he sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate and finished third with 9% of the vote against basketball star Bill Bradley and State Treasurer Richard Leone. He later spent seventeen years as a Superior Court Judge before retiring in 1997. He passed away in 2007.