Joe Minish, eleven-term Congressman, dies at 91

Former Rep. Joseph Minish, an Essex County Democrat who served in Congress from 1963 to 1985, died on Saturday. He was 91.

Minish was a labor leader when Democrats picked him to run for an open House seat in 1962. He defeated Orange attorney Frank Palmieri by a 60%-37% margin, and held the seat for 22 years. He lost in 1984, after redistricting added heavily-Republican Morris County to his suburban Essex seat; Dean Gallo, the Assembly Minority Leader, defeated him 56%-44%.

Until his loss, Minish won re-election by large pluralities; his weakest showings were a 58%-40% win over former State Sen. Milton Waldor in 1972, and a 58%-41% victory over attorney Leonard Felzenberg in 1966.

Minish went to Congress after seven-term incumbent Hugh Addonizio left Washington to run for Mayor of Newark. He was the 46-year-old Executive Director of the Essex-West Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO, and former Executive Secretary of the Essex-West Hudson Council, of the Congress of Industrial Organizations at the time of his first election. Minish was the choice of Essex County Democratic leaders, and was unopposed in the April 1962 Democratic primary.

“He was like your average working class guy who rolled up his sleeves. He knew what it was to bring your lunch pale to work," said Republican Assemblyman Kevin O'Toole, who worked as a campaign intern for Minish in 1984, while he was a sophomore political science major at Seton Hall University.

O'Toole, who was assigned the internship by a professor, credits Minish with inspiring his own interest in a political career. And although he was a Republican even then, O'toole said that watching Minish lose was a heart-wrenching experience.

"It was the single worst night of my life in politics. It’s hard to accept a loss out of the gate for someone who dedicated 22 yars of his life to politics," said O'Toole.

"Essex County and the state of New Jersey lose another giant with the passing of Congressman Joe Minish. He was fighter for the principles of organized labor, believed in the digniity of work, and set new standards for constituient service. Joe was district first congressman, and carried himsef with great sense of class," said Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, the Demcratic State Chairman. "I met him a few times, he always had kind words for me as a child and wonderful political advice later in life. When he and my father got together, the conversation was riviting, the laughter loud. Joe Minish made New Jersey a better place. He truly will be missed."

Cryan's father, John Cryan, was a Democratic Assemblyman and the Essex County Sheriff during much of the time Minish served in Congress.

At the time of his defeat, Minish was the third ranking Democrat on the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Chairman of the Oversight and Renegotiation Subcommittee. He also chaired the House Administration Personnel and Police Subcommittee.

He was a longtime resident of West Orange.

Visitation will be held on Tuesday from 2-4 PM and 6-9 PM at the Quinn Hopping Funeral Home in Livingston. A mass will be held at 10 AM Wednesday at St. Joseph's Church in West Orange. Joe Minish, eleven-term Congressman, dies at 91