Robert Menendez continues to be a trailblazer: the first hispanic Mayor of Union City, the first hispanic N.J. State Senator, the first hispanic Congressman from New Jersey, the first hispanic to serve in the House Democratic leadership, the first hispanic United States Senator from New Jersey, the first hispanic to win a statewide nomination and general election in New Jersey, and now the first hispanic to serve as Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The first hispanic to serve in the Assembly was Jorge Rod, a Republican who was elected in 1981 and 1983. Rod was technically the first hispanic Democrat in the Legislature — after Ocean County Republicans dumped him from their ticket in 1985 (they replaced him with Jeff Moran, now the Surrogate), Rod switched parties and ran for re-election as a Democrat. Menendez became the first hispanic Democrat to win an Assembly seat in 1987.
And the first hispanic to win a major party nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives was Albio Sires, who was the Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Frank Guarini in 1986. Sires became the first hispanic Assembly Speaker in 2002, and won a House seat four years later when Menendez moved up to the Senate.