In possession now of virtually every endorsement that matters in Union County Democratic Party politics and beyond, Sheriff Joe Cryan appears well on track to securing the LD20 state senate seat currently occupied by Ray Lesniak.
Getting swore in to the upper house next year would reunite Cryan with a man who shares a big chunk of family political history starting in Newark’s West Ward: veteran Senator Ronald L. Rice.
The Cryan and Rice families share a political history in Brick City, going back to the 1970s when Rice began campaigning in the west ward, turf controlled by Essex County Sheriff John Cryan, the father of Joe.
At that time, Irish Americans dominated the West Ward, but it was Rice – a Newark Police Detective – who chipped away at that power and would finally break through, an incursion that peaked when he won the LD28 state senate seat in 1981.
Rice has held that seat ever since.
But in one of those early contests, prior to his finally breaking through, Rice and his team thought they had won a contest and set off down South Orange Avenue on an Election night victory parade.
John Cryan – mastermind behind the opposition incumbent slate – was standing out in front of his tavern observing Team Rice’s festivities when one of his lieutenants told him that Rice had, in fact, lost the election once they factored in the absentee votes.
“Should we tell them?” the messenger asked the boss, fearful of busting up the celebratory mood with the bad news.
“No, Jimmy,” a sympathetic Cryan supposedly told his lieutenant. “Let them have their fun for now. We’ll let them know in the morning.”