But philosophically, Manzo knew his legislative career was over last June when, in a surprising turn of events, he lost his bid for state Senate to Sandra Cunningham in the Democratic primary.
The reality of stepping down after four years in office didn't hit home until he watched the computers go.
The dismantling of his office actually took several days, a kind of slow death as telephone staff and others came into remove pieces of what has been one of the most effective legislative offices in the state Assembly.
"It's sad," he said during an interview at the Broadway Diner recently. "You watch things change."
Manzo, unfortunately, proved the negative adage that good legislation does not mean re-election, because many state officials acknowledge Manzo as one of the most effective lawmakers in recent times, with a significant number of his well-crafted bills being signed into law.
Manzo, who will turn 53 in February, has already had a rich and significant political career. While he is closing out his four years as a state Assemblyman from the 31st District, which includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City, he said he has no intention of fading away.Began as a health activist
Manzo, who received his BA in Health Education from Jersey City State College, began his political career as a health activitist. He briefly served as an environmental health specialist in Bayonne and still holds a similar position in Jersey City. He was most effective as a health officier for Hudson County.
Raised in the Greenville and West Side neighborhoods of Jersey City, Manzo was the first independent candidate elected to the Hudson County Freeholders in the early 1990s. Manzo has run unsuccessfully for mayor four times, although he is already gearing up for the Jersey City mayoral election in 2009 on the issue of chromium pollution in Jersey City. As a health officer, Manzo showed how chromium dumped at various locations in Jersey City may have led to cancer clusters.
Manzo's sharp criticism for a recent deal for the site along Route 440, saying that it is a bad deal that has the potential to pose a health risk to residents of Jersey City, may be the first salvo in his effort to unseat Incumbent Mayor Jerramiah Healy next year.
Jersey City recently settled a case with Honeywell Inc. in which Honeywell will help that city develop 100 acres near Route 440, but will not do the majority of the cleanup.
"Chromium migrates, and capping it on that site won't stop it," he said. "The area has to be cleaned up." Accomplishments in the Assembly
Although health issues played a big part of Manzo's legislative accomplishments during his four years in the state Assembly, particularly with the development of the Highlands Protection Act that protected the state's drinking water, Manzo's legislation covered a wide range of areas including tax reform, school funding, and crime.
"The Highlands bill was probably my most important legislation because it protects our drinking water," he said, "but I'm proud of a number of bills that eventually got made into law."
Some of his legislative efforts had curious side effects. While Manzo has struggled to get his Smart Bill passed, a bill that would shift the cost of school funding from property to income taxes, his lobbying efforts on the bill's behalf won concessions from the administration in other areas, and in once case led to the largest tax rebate to property owners in the state's history. Anti-crime success
His ability to get a signficant number of anti-crime bills passed came as a surprise to Manzo, he said.
Some of these have become national models that other states are now looking at.
Anti-crime legislation - in particular gun control legislation - has been hampered on state levels by significant opposition by President George W. Bush and his administration. Manzo said in order to effectively limit the spread of illegal guns into the state, local officials have had to craft legislation in ways that would not be stymied by the federal government.
One bill Manzo introduced forced people to show a valid firearms license in order to purchase ammunition. This was a blow to street gangs, Manzo said, who bought illegal guns, but then could not get the ammunition.
A more direct assault on illegal guns was the state law requiring people to report guns missing or stolen within 36 hours.
This is being used to combat gun dealers, who import guns from other states for eventual deployment on the street. When one of these guns showed up in a crime, the owner simply said the gun was stolen. Manzo said the requirement to report the gun stolen will either show that dealers in the state are selling guns to street gangs or force the gun sellers to stop.
Two years ago, Manzo introduced a package of anti-crime and anti-street gang bills, some of which became part of Gov. Jon Corzine's anti-crime package this year.
Stricter punishments for people recruiting teens for street gangs also became part of Manzo's efforts to slow down the growth of street gangs in places like Jersey City. Some of Manzo's bills will become part of future crime efforts, and most recently, with the help of new state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, penalties for possessing handguns in public places were increased.
Also, Manzo's bills on monitoring internet sexual predators made New Jersey the toughest state in the United States when it comes to those kinds of crimes. Seniors and jobs
Manzo said he is proud to have played a key role in rescuing two of the most popular senior citizen prescription drug programs, PAAD and Senior Gold, and helped craft legislation that allowed seniors to use Medicaid to pay for home healthcare aides.
Manzo supported raising the minimum wage and adopting earned income credits.
Perhaps one of the most visible pieces of Manzo's legislation involves grants for the cleanup of former industrial sites. Several key projects in Hudson County were made possible because of this legislation.
Manzo, of course, said he is disappointed by his loss of the Assembly seat since he believes he could do much more. But he said he will remain active as a public advocate. He also believes that in 2009 he will be elected mayor of Jersey City.
"I still have a lot of offer," he said.