When New Jersey picked up a fifteenth congressional seat after the 1960 census, the new district included nearly all of Middlesex County. That was at the insistence of David Wilentz, a former state Attorney General who dominated Middlesex County politics as the Democratic boss from the 1930’s into the 1970’s. One rare rebel who dared to challenge Wilentz’s wishes was George Otlowski, a Middlesex County Freeholder from Perth Amboy – the center of the Wilentz power base.
Otlowski, who had been a Middlesex County Freeholder for eight years, wanted to go to Congress – but Wilentz had another candidate: Edward Patten, a former Perth Amboy Mayor and Middlesex County Clerk who had managed Robert Meyner’s campaign for Governor and served as New Jersey Secretary of State from 1954 to 1962. Patten won the primary by a 56%-44% margin and went on to serve eighteen years in Congress.
Otlowski made peace with Wilentz, winning re-election as Freeholder four more times. He won a State Assembly seat in 1973 (his running mate was Alan Karcher) and became Mayor of Perth Amboy in 1976. Facing a recall election, Otlowski resigned as Mayor in 1990 (Joseph Vas replaced him) and lost a Democratic primary for re-election to the Assembly in 1991.
Otlowski still lives in Perth Amboy, and will celebrate his 96th birthday on January 1, 2008.