The 13th District includes all of East Newark, Guttenberg, Harrison, Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York, and parts of Bayonne, North Bergen, and Jersey City. It also includes part of Newark, and four towns in Middlesex and Union counties.
At Sires' announcement at Hudson County Community College, he was joined by Governor Jon Corzine and other prominent members of New Jersey's Democratic caucus.
"When you endorse someone, you are really making a statement about an individual, and I can't think of anyone who can serve the people of the 13th District better than Albio Sires," said Corzine. "Bob Menendez has been a great congressman, and Albio Sires will be an equally great congressman."
During his speech, Sires vowed, if elected, to take his vision and leadership experience to Washington D.C., and work to bring about success for New Jersey and the nation.
"I am ready to make a difference in the Congress of the United States of America because I have made a difference in my hometown as mayor and for my state as the third highest ranking Democrat as Speaker of the Assembly," said Sires. "I know where I want to lead because I know where I come from."
Among the invited was Hudson County Democratic Chairman and State Sen. Bernard Kenny of Hoboken, who acted as emcee for the event.
"Albio Sires has broken ground in so many ways by demonstrating the leadership qualities that will serve our district well in Washington," said Kenny. "He has worked hard on providing opportunity to the residents of this state every single day. That is why Hudson County is united behind Albio Sires."
Also saying a few words and throwing their full support behind Sires were former Governor and Senate President Richard Codey, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ-1st Dist.), Rep. Steven R. Rothman (NJ-9th Dist.), and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-8th Dist.)
"[Sires] is a man of his word, without question," said Codey. "He did a great job as speaker and as mayor; [as a matter of fact], his district got more money out of the budget than any district. He's dedicated to the people and he's dedicated to doing the right thing."
"I am pleased to be representing the southernmost city of Hudson County, Camden," said Andrews jokingly. "This country desperately needs a change in direction, and Albio Sires is the man [to do it]."
However, as it looks now, the election to fill the seat won't be held until next November. Menendez has suggested that a special election be held sooner, so that the district does not go unrepresented.
Sires will face Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas, who has already declared his candidacy.
At the press conference Wednesday, Sires, 55, was also joined by Essex County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen, Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, and more than a dozen elected legislators and mayors from across the district.
Beacon of freedom
Born the Bejucal community of Cuba, Sires and his family fled communist Cuba in January of 1962.
"In every life, there are events that determine the future course of our actions; mine was when I was 10 years old and my family fled from communist Cuba," said Sires. "The challenges for us were enormous, but my parents saw the same thing for our family that so many other immigrants have seen for theirs; the opportunity to succeed."
Settling into West New York and adopting a new language, Sires became a star basketball player at Memorial High School, where he returned to teach Spanish after attaining his undergraduate degree from St. Peter's Prep and a master's from Middlebury College in Vermont.
"Albio and I are former teachers, and we know that education should never be denied to anyone who wants to learn," said DeGise. "That is the legacy he will carry with him to Washington."
"I am so proud to be the first in my family to go to college, but I am just as proud to be the son of parents who sacrificed everything so that their children could grow up in freedom," said Sires. "And that is why I am running for Congress; to ensure that this country, which my own family saw as a beacon of freedom, remains a beacon of freedom."
Accomplishments in the Assembly
This past November, Sires was reelected to his fourth term as Assemblyman of the 33rd District, which encompasses the townships of West New York, Union City, North Bergen, Guttenburg, Weehawken, Hoboken and part of Jersey City.
Sires was the first Hispanic Speaker of the General Assembly, which he served as from 2002 to 2006, and the first Cuban-American to preside over a legislative house in any of the 50 states.
Sires has also served as the Mayor of West New York since 1995.
Among some of his highlighted accomplishments in the Assembly, Sires led the legislative effort to include a successful public referendum to create the Office of Lieutenant Governor on the 2005 general election ballot, and was a lead sponsor of the state law that will increase state's minimum wage to $7.15 by the year 2007.
Sires also sponsored the Business Tax Reform Act of 2002, which alleviated some of the state tax burden from residents; the "Fix DMV" bill in 2003, which called for a series of changes in the Department of Motor Vehicles from customer service to security; and a number of other bills from emergency preparedness to redevelopment of contaminated industrial sites.
Between 2002 and 2005 Sires had the opportunity to serve as acting Governor of New Jersey several times, and last September signed three new laws into effect, which included funding for cleanups of contaminated industrial properties and efforts to improve the state's response to catastrophic medical emergencies.
As mayor, Sires has been credited with straightening out the finances and bringing about crime reduction in his home township of West New York, and collaborated with other area mayors to form the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue, the state's largest regionalized fire department.
Would focus on education, health in Congress
In the Assembly, Sires has prided himself on being an advocate for education, health care, security, and enhancing economic opportunity.
He has sponsored legislation to offer free community college tuition to qualified students and increase tuition aid grants through the New Jersey STARS program, and increased funding for public education by $760 million. He said he will continue this work in Washington by increasing Pell Grants and student loans to help families afford the rising cost of college. He said he will call for reform in the No Child Left Behind Act, and continue to push for more funding for anti-gang activities and a ban on assault weapons.
"All my life, as a teacher and as an elected official, I have invested in education because I know that education is the key to success," said Sires.
Sires also spearheaded legislation to protect funding for New Jersey's Senior Gold and pharmaceutical assistance programs, and to help working families pay health care costs.
In Congress he hopes to pass a new Medicare prescription drug plan and make health care more diverse and affordable. He also wants to make federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and medical innovation a top priority.
"It is unconscionable that the Bush Administration will let a small group of right-wing zealots hijack the possibility of curing life-threatening illnesses by prohibiting funding for embryonic stem cell research," said Sires.
If elected to 13th District of the house of Representatives, Sires also wants to fight for New Jersey's share of homeland security funding; better security for ports, airports, and chemical facilities; tougher gun laws; better job training; increasing the minimum wage nationwide; and bring tax breaks for the middle class.
"[I will] stand up to those in Washington who have forgotten that our democracy belongs to those who work hard and play by the rules; not to those who would sacrifice our very freedoms in the name of liberty," said Sires. "This is the one Hudson County seat we have [in the House of Representatives], and this in the one seat we need to hold," said DeGise.
"I am running for Congress because it's time to change the direction of our country," said Sires. "It is time to create educational opportunities for our children, time to bring job and health security to those who work hard, and time to keep our promises of a dignified retirement to our parents. It is time for a plan to bring our troops home from Iraq, and most of all, it is time for the Republicans in Washington to be sent packing."