Although Doria did not know what fate had in store for him in 2004, he appeared to know he would continue on in some capacity. In his own twist on a famous quote from Gen. Douglas MacArthur - who said old soldiers never die, they just fade away - Doria predicted he would neither die nor fade away yet.
Last week, he was proven right when - standing with his wife Maribeth and his daughter Margaret - Doria was sworn in for the next three years as the state Senator for the 31st District by Acting Gov. Richard Codey. Doria was elected to fill the unexpired term of former state Sen. Glenn Cunningham, who died last May of a heart attack. The 31st District includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City in Hudson County.
"It's truly a blessing to be back serving the people of not only the 31st District, but the entire state of New Jersey for another three years," Doria said. "Public service is a noble goal, and I intend to partake of my duties as a state Senator with the nobility, humility and honor that the position demands."
Doria said that while he and Cunningham were on different sides in a Hudson County political dispute - Cunningham had helped defeat Doria in the 2003 Assembly primary - the two legislators, Doria said, shared many of the same goals for the legislative district.
"Senator Cunningham and I may have had political differences, but those should not be confused as policy differences," said Senator Doria. "Senator Cunningham was a tireless champion of his people in Jersey City, and I intend to honor his memory and continue to fight for those that he held so dear."
Although Doria had served in the state Assembly since 1980, this will be his first term in the state Senate. "I'd like to thank all the voters in Bayonne and Jersey City who've supported me through the years, including this election year, for their faith in electing me to serve them in the state Senate," said Senator Doria. "I promise that I will not let them down."
In responding to questions about his hopes for the future and the biggest challenges he expected to face as state Senator, Doria said, "In the state Senate, my role is to represent the needs and interests of the people of the 31st Legislative District. I will continue doing what I have done for 25 years in the Legislature: working on health care, housing, and quality-of-life issues as they impact the citizens of the 31st District. I will also continue to push for fair and adequate education funding for Bayonne and Jersey City."
Doria said the biggest challenge facing the legislature in 2005 will be to close the state's budget gap without endangering vital programs and services.
"The legislature will also have to make an important decision about calling a constitutional convention to deal with the property tax system," he said. "If such a convention takes place, the legislature would need to establish rules and procedures for it and to deal with the results of that convention."
Doria has a lot of experience
Despite being a freshman state Senator, Doria brings a lot of experience to his new post. As an assemblyman, Doria was chairman of the Education Committee for two years. He served as Assembly minority leader for nine years from 1992 to 2001, prior to which he served a two-year stint as the Assembly speaker.
During his 24 years in the Assembly, Doria's accomplishments are almost too numerous to mention, although highlights include a law requiring medical insurance to cover 48-hour hospital stays for new mothers. Doria was also instrumental in establishing laws allowing charter schools throughout the state. Other laws covered energy costs and the establishing of a state environmental trust fund.
A strong educational background
After graduating from Marist High School in Bayonne, Joe Doria received a B.A. Magna Cum Laude from Saint Peter's College in Jersey City. He earned a bachelor's degree in History, English and French, and he holds a master's degree in American Studies from Boston College - the only year he says he ever lived outside the city of Bayonne. Doria attended New York University and received his doctorate in educational leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University in May of 2000.
Doria brags of being from Bayonne. His father worked in the General Cable company in Bayonne and his mother was a homemaker. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, his father even dabbled a little in politics. This evolved out of an Italian social club where his father sometimes played cards.
In an often told tale, Doria got his start in politics in 1969 when he was doing his research for American studies at the Capitol building library in Boston. During the breaks, he would watch the Massachusetts legislature sessions and soon found himself fascinated by the process.
But he took the traditional route, serving on the Bayonne Board of Education in 1975. He served as board president from 1976 until 1979, and also was president of the Hudson County School Boards Association from 1978 to 1979.
He took his seat in the state Assembly in 1980. Over the next 24 years, more than 240 of the bills he sponsored were signed into law, and he frequently focused on areas of education, consumer protection, healthcare and transportation. Doria was the first assemblyman to become chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and chaired the Assembly Education Committee.
When Doria left the Assembly in January 2004, he was the longest serving member and had served longest as minority leader than any politician in modern history.