NJ Sen. Sandra Cunningham charged with drunken driving after crash into parked cars
When someone is arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey, police departments observe a protocol that includes the reading of Miranda Rights.
Sandra B. Cunningham, the deputy majority leader for state Senate Democrats and a powerhouse political force in Hudson County, was arrested and charged with drunken driving after she crashed her car into two parked cars in Jersey City on Thursday, police records show.
Cunningham, 70, a state senator for the 31st District since 2007, was driving westbound on Culver Avenue at about 9:30 a.m. when she sideswiped two cars, according to a crash report. Cunningham told police she thought she "turned into a snowbank."
The two cars Cunningham crashed into were unoccupied, the report says.
A photograph obtained by NorthJersey.com shows Cunningham in handcuffs at the scene of the crash, around the block from Route 440. She lives about a mile away, in a gated community called Society Hill.
Cunningham did not answer her phone Friday morning.
Cunningham is the widow of Jersey City’s first Black mayor, Glenn D. Cunningham, who died suddenly in 2004 during his only term in office. She represents Bayonne and parts of Jersey City, the same district her late husband represented in the Senate for five months before his death.
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who lives in Jersey City, said he picked Cunningham up from the municipal court building at about 4 p.m. Thursday. McGreevey said Cunningham was banged up from the crash.
"Just shaken up," he said. "Slightly traumatized."
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Cunningham has been an ardent supporter of criminal justice reform, backing measures like “ban the box” — barring questions about criminal histories on job applications — and a recent bill that would eliminate mandatory minimum prison sentences for about three dozen crimes.
The political implications of Cunningham’s arrest are not clear. She is widely popular with voters in Hudson County, a liberal stronghold where she has won more than 70% of the vote in all three of her reelection fights. In her last two campaigns she ran unopposed in the Democratic primaries.
Cunningham was cited for driving under the influence in Liberty State Park in 2005, before her election to the senate, according to the Jersey Journal.
"This is out of character for me, and a mistake," she told the paper at the time. “This is a very difficult time of the year for me and I'm just so sorry that it happened, and it will never happen again."
Terrence T. McDonald is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.