Mary Scanlon’s legacy

It has been thirty years since Mary Scanlon won a State Assembly that once belonged to her late husband. Patrick Scanlon was serving his frst term in the Legislature when he died in office in June 1977. A protege of the late Democratic State Chairman Philip Keegan, Scanlon won the Newark-Irvington-South Orange Assembly seat Keegan gave up in 1975; in that same primary, Scanlon’s running mate, incumbent Rocco Neri, lost re-electon to 23-year-old Peter Shapiro, who would go on to serve as Essex County Executive and become the Democratic nomine for Governor ten years later.

Scanlon died just days after the Democratic primary. Party leaders picked his widow, a clerk-typist in the Essex County Clerk’s office, to run for his seat. (Joseph Papasidero, a Seton Hall University graduate student, ran for the unexpired term and spent two months in Trenton.) Mary Scanlon served one term, and was replaced by party leaders, who opted to send James Zangari and Harry McEnroe to the Assembly in 1979. (Her daughter-in-law, Deborah Scanlon, is now a Union County Freeholder.)

For the first time since Scanlon’s departure, two women are expected to follow their late husbands to Trenton: Sandra Bolden Cunningham won the Democratic nomination for State Senate seat that was held in 2004 by Glenn Cunningham, the Mayor of Jersey City; and Cleopatra Tucker — if her 110-vote lead holds up –will take the Assembly seat held by Donald Tucker from 1997 to 2005.

Mary Scanlon’s legacy