For a New Jersey woman to go to Congress, the best route is to take on an incumbent

If Linda Stender defeats Michael Ferguson, she would become just the sixth woman to represent New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives since the ratification of the 19th Ammendment in 1920. Four of New Jersey’s five Congresswomen went to Washington after defeating an incumbent: Mary Norton, a Hudson County Freeholder who went to Congress in 1924 when she defeated incumbent John Eagan in the Democratic primary with the backing of Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague; Florence Dwyer, an Assemblywoman from Elizabeth, who ousted two-term Democrat Harrison Williams in 1956; Helen Meyner, the former First Lady of New Jersey, who beat freshman Republican Joseph Maraziti in 1974; and former Ridgewood Board of Education President Marge Roukema, who unsteated three-term Democrat Andrew Maguire in 1980. Millicent Fenwick, a Republican who served in the State Assembly and as state Director of Consumer Affairs, won an open House seat in 1974 when Peter Frelinghuysen declined to seek re-election; she defeated Assembly Minority Leader Thomas Kean (and future Governor) in the GOP primary by less than ninety votes. In the general election, she defeated Democrat Frederick Bohen, a former Johnson Administration official from Princeton whose campaign was managed by a young political operative named Timothy Carden; Carden lost a House race to Ferguson in 2002. Norton remained in Congress for 26 years and is the only New Jersey woman to chair a full House committee. Dwyer retired in 1972 after eight terms and Roukema retired in 2002 after eleven terms. Meyner won again in 1976 (narrowly defeating Republican William Schluter) and lost her seat in 1978 to James Courter, an Assistant Warren County Prosecutor. Fenwick left the House after four terms to run unsuccessfully for the United States Senate; she lost to Democrat Frank Lautenberg. All four of the men who lost their House seats to women sought a political comeback: Eight years after being unseated by Norton, Eagan (who first went to Congress on Woodrow Wilson’s coattails in 1912, lost his seat in 1920 and regained it two years later) won a seat on the Weehawken Board of Education; he spent eight years on the school board before beginning a fourteen-year stint as the Weehawken Tax Collector. Williams ran for U.S. Senate in 1958 and defeated Republican Robert Kean, a ten-term Congressman. Maguire sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 1982 and finished second in the primary behind Lautenberg. Maraziti ran for the State Assembly in 1977 and lost a general election to Democrat Rosemarie Totaro; he later lost a GOP primary for Morris County Freeholder.

For a New Jersey woman to go to Congress, the best route is to take on an incumbent