Coutinho’s Replacement Hopes to Improve Education, Number of Jobs

After Albert Coutinho resigned his post as Assemblyman and pleaded guilty to theft and falsifying records, Democratic Party leaders chose Eliana Pintor Marin to replace him. She sat down with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss her new position.

Pintor Marin said her life has changed since getting the news. “It’s just gonna take a little bit to get accustomed to a few things. And also just to really get myself ready to hit the ground running when I am sworn in,” she said.

Before the sudden resignation, Coutinho had announced he wouldn’t seek reelection and told Schneider that he hoped Pintor Marin would be his successor.

Pintor Marin said the sudden change of events was bittersweet. “It’s also great to know that you’re gonna have this position and you’re gonna be able to kind of have a head start, but at the same time, it’s bitter because it’s just being thrown at you and you have to be prepared a lot sooner than what you thought,” she said.

She said she had no idea that Coutinho was having legal issues. “Assemblyman Coutinho has always been a great legislator. Someone that I think the community in Trenton are gonna miss dearly. But it’s just a sad and unfortunate day,” Pintor Marin said. “But I think we’ll be OK. And I wish him the best of luck.”

Pinto Marin said she doesn’t have an agenda yet. “I still don’t know what committees I’ll be selected to serve on. I definitely have a background in education and in finance. I think that those two areas will probably be best suited for me and two areas that I would have the most knowledge in,” she said.

She has served on the Newark Board of Education for six years and said education has been a big part of her life and was an inspiration to serve in a higher office. “Growing up coming from an immigrant family, the community has given so much to me. Education’s been a big factor in my life and in our home. So it started off there,” Pintor Marin said. “And I think that when you get to a certain point, especially being that Newark is state controlled and it’s not local control, you really wanna make a bigger impact. And you wanna be involved in an institution where you can make changes.”

Gov. Chris Christie’s statement that the state has control of the Newark school system, so he doesn’t care about community criticism bothers Pintor Marin. “I think that what constituents think and what the people that live in this city think should absolutely matter,” she said. “I think that the state has been there for over 18 years. Not many good changes have been done.”

Pintor Marin believes if local officials had control of the Newark schools for the past 18 years, the school system would be better than it is currently. “Eighteen years is just way too long to be in an institution, especially the largest city in the state of New Jersey, serving over 38,000 children. I think that when you live in the city, you pay taxes, you deal with the situations that are occurring,” she said. “I mean, just the spike in crime in the recent couple of weeks. It really is best suited to have a local body run the school board.”

While Pintor Marin said she doesn’t agree with Christie on that issue, she added, “I wouldn’t call myself an adversary to Christie or really to anyone. I think the best way to make changes is to really work together. That’s such a cliché to say but it really is the reality. Even on the board, there’s a lot of us that were very different. We have different opinions. But at the end of the day, how we’re gonna get there might be a different way of thinking. But at the end, what matters is the good results that we get.”

When asked what she most wants to accomplish during her time in Trenton, Pintor Marin said, “I definitely want to see an improvement in education. I definitely want more jobs created for this state. We have such a fascinating and interesting state. It’s really the heartbeat along with New York City. And I think that those two areas are really what the future is gonna be all about.”