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One of the most exclusive clubs in New Jersey politics belongs to the group of three men who came within 1,000 votes of winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives: Norman Roth, Lindsay Rudd and Gene Boyle. The closest House race this century was in 1956, when Roth, a Jersey City Republican, lost to three-term Democratic Congressman Alfred Sieminski (the last Democratic Congressman from New Jersey who went to Princeton) by a razor-thin 57 votes, a 44.97%-44.92% margin. (Two years later, Sieminski lost the Democratic primary to Cornelius Gallagher.) In 1936, four-term GOP Congressman Fred Hartley, who became nationally prominent as the co-sponsor of the Taft-Hartley Act, survived a challenge from Democrat Rudd by just 665 votes — 50.2%-49.6%. Hartley survived another close race in 1946 from a young Newark attorney and World War II veteran named Peter Rodino; he retired in 1948 and Rodino began a congressional career that lasted forty years. Boyle, a 48-year-old former Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioner who owned a popular restaurant in Clifton, came within 960 votes of winning a 1969 Special Election for Congress in the 8th district (the incumbent, Democrat Charles Joelson, resigned to become a Superior Court Judge). The winner was Democrat Robert Roe, the state Commissioner of Conservation and Economic Development in the cabinet of Governor Richard Hughes who had served as a Passaic County Freeholder and as Mayor of Wayne. The Democrat had been the heavy favorite and Boyle’s near-win was much a result of GOP gubernatorial candidate William Cahill’s coattails. Roe went on to serve 23 years in Congress without every having another tough race and chaired the powerful House Transportation and Public Works Committee. Boyle, who ran for office only once, died in 1991 at the age of 70. (Technically, Richard Zimmer could be considered the fourth member of the club, since he lost a 2000 House race to incumbent Rush Holt by 651 votes. But Zimmer, who held the seat from 1991 to 1997, had already served in Congress.)

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