Vincent Prieto of Secaucus was re-elected to the state Assembly on Tuesday night along with the rest of the incumbent Democrats across Hudson County.
Each state legislative district has one state senator and two assembly people. Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen), ran with state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, and Angelica M. Jimenez from West New York. They ran in the 32nd District, which includes North Bergen, Secaucus, Jersey City, Fairview, East Harrison, Newark and Kearny.
Statewide, Democrats maintained their grip on the legislature, which they have controlled the last seven years, and actually increased their majority in the Assembly to 48-32. The Democratic Senate majority remained 24-16.
“We need to make sure that our agenda is understood.” – Vincent Prieto
Senate winner Sacco (D) received 14,136, compared to opponents Herbert Shaw (I) with 504 votes, and Edward O’Neill (R) with 2,668.
“It was a good day for Democrats,” said Prieto. “I look forward to [continuing to serve] the people of Secaucus, the 32nd District, and the people of New Jersey.”
Leadership that mirrors diversity of New Jersey
The Assembly Democratic caucus met on Thursday to decide upon its new leadership team for the 2012-13 legislative session. That team includes Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) in her second term as Assembly speaker, Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) as Assembly majority leader, and John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), as Assembly deputy speaker. Prieto was expected to be picked as the Assembly Budget Committee chairman.
“I’ve dealt in local government for many years,” said Prieto about his qualifications for the expanded role. He has not been a member of the Budget Committee but believes he is ready to assume a more prominent leadership role.
Prior to this role, Prieto was being touted as Assembly speaker by Sacco, who was urging supporters to back him.
“I’ve never said publicly that I wanted to be speaker,” said Prieto. He said that while others did propose the idea, he sat down with the Democratic leadership last week to come up with a team that would work for New Jersey.
“I want to be in a position of leadership to make those decisions that represent the working class,” he said. “I think the leadership team that we’ve assembled is a good one. And people are going to see great things to come.”
Prieto said the make-up of the Assembly leadership team represents the diversity within New Jersey. Oliver is the only African-American woman to lead a legislative chamber in New Jersey history. Prieto, a Latino, was born in Cuba, and immigrated to the United States at the age of 11.
Prieto was first elected to the Assembly in 2004 and has served as deputy majority whip since 2006. He served as the chair of the Regulated Professions Committee and also served on the Homeland Security committee and State Preparedness and Transportation, Public Works, and Independent Authorities committees.
Prieto said priorities moving forward include creating more jobs, providing property tax relief, and putting items back in the budget like funding for women’s health as well as taking care of the most vulnerable, such as seniors and children.
“We need to make sure that our agenda is understood,” said Prieto.
“We had a good budget [last year] and the governor of New Jersey has line item veto power to take things out…things that are essential [should] stay in the budget.”
Splitting time between three public jobs
Prieto made headlines last week because of his salaries from three public jobs. Prieto reportedly earns $49,000 as Assemblyman, $123,000 as a construction code official in Secaucus, and $29,000 as Guttenberg’s construction official.
“Two of them are part-time jobs,” said Prieto in response. “Secaucus is a full time job…For Guttenberg, I go a couple of nights a week to oversee that department [and] to make sure it is functioning the way it should be. I’m very organized and I get things done.”
Prieto said that anyone can run for the part-time elected position and that the other two jobs pertain to his professional experience as a licensed construction code official. He said he saves Guttenberg money because they don’t have to hire a full-time construction code official. Now, they have his expertise and experience.
“The municipal jobs do not cost taxpayers a single penny,” said Prieto. “They are fee-generated. We bring in revenue to the municipalities [and] it pays for the salaries.”
Prieto said he wakes up at 5 a.m. every day, walks three miles, works out, goes to work, and works until midnight.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.