New Jersey’s oldest living former Congressman was born eight years before Frank Lautenberg

Two longtime members of the New Jersey Congressional delegations will celebrate birthdays on September 1: Joseph Minish, an Essex County Democrat who served in Congress from 1963 to 1985, will celebrate his 90th birthday, while Matthew Rinaldo, a Union County Republican who was a Congressman from 1973 to 1993, turns 75. When seven-term incumbent Hugh Addonizio gave up his House seat to run for Mayor of Newark in 1962, Essex Democrats picked Minish, the 46-year-old Executive Secretary of the Essex-West Hudson AFL-CIO, to replace him. Minish defeated Republican David Wiener, the Essex County Surrogate, by a wide margin, and spent 22 years in Washington. Minish won re-election ten times by comfortable margins. His toughest races came in 1970, when he faced millionaire developer James Shue (the father of actors Elizabeth and Andrew Shue), and against State Senator Milton Walder in 1972. He lost his seat in 1984, after a panel of Federal Judges overturned the ’82 redistricting map and put Minish in a disrict that included most of Morris County. He was defeated by Dean Gallo, the Assembly Minority Leader. Rinaldo went to Congress in 1972 when Republican Florence Dwyer retired after sixteen years in office. (She had defeated incumbent Harrison Williams in 1956; Williams ran for the U.S. Senate in 1958 and defeated Robert Kean, a Republican Congressman from Essex County and the grandfather of the current U.S. Senate candidate.) Rinaldo, a 41-year-old State Senator and former Union County Freeholder, narrowly edged out State Senator (and former gubernatorial candidate) Frank McDermott and Assemblyman Charles Irwin for the GOP nomination, and then defeated former State Senator Jerry English (who later served in Governor Brendan Byrne’s cabinet) in the General Election. Rinaldo dropped his bid for re-election to an eleventh term in September 1992, presumably to take advantage of a law that allowed federal candidates to personally keep unsused campaign funds if they retired by the end of 1992. Rinaldo walked away with over $900,000. Rinaldo’s only tough re-election campaign came in 1982, when Adam Levin, the son of a wealthy real estate developer and the state Consumer Affairs Director in the Byrne Administration, spent more than $2.3 million to defeat him. Those were the days when the Legislature (controlled by Democrats) drew congressional districts, and Levin gave a huge amount of money to Democratic legislative candidates in the 1981 election. The new district, shaped like a fish hook, went from Union County down through Middlesex County and picked up some Democratic towns in northern Monmouth County. Minish splits his time between New Jersey and Florida. Sadly, Rinaldo has been in poor health for the last few years and lives in a nursing home in West Caldwell. New Jersey’s oldest living former Congressman is Peter Frelinghuysen, who turned 90 in January. The father of Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, he represented New Jersey in the House from 1953 to 1975.

New Jersey’s oldest living former Congressman was born eight years before Frank Lautenberg