Marie Muhler retires

Marie Muhler’s announcement that she would not seek re-election to a fourth term as Monmouth County Surrogate marks the end of a political career than spanned four decades. A mother of five, Muhler began by running for the Marlboro Board of Education, and then moved up to the Freehold Regional Board of Education. When she first ran for the State Assembly in 1975, the 37-year-old Muhler was facing two Democratic incumbents who had won upset victories in the ’73 Watergate landslide. The was was an exceptionally close one: Assemblyman Walter Kozloski was the top vote-getter, with Muhler finishing 142 votes behind him — and just 271 votes behind the other incumbent, Morton Salkind. Muhler’s running mate, Jerome Burke, who had served as an Assemblyman from Essex Couny in 1964 and 1964, finished only 13 votes behind Salkind. When veteran Republican State Senator Alfred Beadleston retired in 1977, Monmouth GOP leader decided to run Surrogate Thomas Gagliano for the Senate seat instead of Muhler, who was easily re-elected to a second term in the Assembly, by a margin of more than 3,300 votes. (Muhler finished first in that race, and Kozloski won a third term by just 213 votes over former Assemblyman John Dawes, whose law firm employed a young attorney named John Bennett. In 1979, with Kozlowski dying at the age of 44, Bennett won that seat.) She won a contested race for the Assembly Republican leadership in 1976, becoming Assistant Minority Whip — back in the days when there were only four leadership posts. When the Minority Leader, Thomas Kean, left the Legislature to run for Governor in 1977, a series of move-ups put Muhler in the Minority Whip post, and she became the #2 Republican in the Assembly leadership in 1982 when she became Assistant Minority Leader. But after the 1983 mid-term elections, a shake-up in the GOP caucus led to her defeat in a bid to keep her leadership post. In 1980, Muhler nearly won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, coming within 1,900 votes of ousting eight-term Democrat James Howard. Muhler ran against Howard again in 1982, but lost by a much wider margin. She resigned from her Assembly seat in 1986 when she took a job with the state Department of Community Affairs. She returned to electoral politics in 1991 when Monmouth Republicans picked her to run against an incumbent Democratic Surrogate Patricia Bennett (who had won five years earlier against the GOP candidate, Frederick Niemann.) She was easily elected to three terms.

Marie Muhler retires