He won four terms as Mayor of Newark on the ‘What’ll you have?’ plank, and then killed himself

Former Newark Mayor Jacob Haussling was one of New Jersey’s most colorful and tragic political figures. He was 33-years-old Democrat when he launched his political career in 1888 as an unsuccessful candidate for Essex County Sheriff. He ran for County Clerk in 1891 and lost to Republican Richard Cooper by just seventeen votes countywide. He was elected Sheriff in 1893, but lost his 1896 bid for re-election to Republican Henry Doremus.

Ten years later, Haussling sought a political comeback — and a rematch with Doremus — on a single issue: his opposition to the “Bishop’s Law,” a local ordinance that forced saloons to close on Sundays. His “liberality with decency” agenda met with the approval of voters. Haussling defeated Doremus, who was seeking re-election to his third term as Mayor of Newark.

“Mr. Haussling was no reformer. Once a reform organization said of him that he ran on a single platform and that plank was ‘What’ll you have?,” according to a published report. “He never resented the accusation nor was he ashamed of the fact that he could start campaigning at 7 o’clock in the evening, keep going till the next morning, always know one more place where men in receptive mood were to be found, and always leave by the wayside candidates of weaker fiber.”

Haussling was re-elected easily in 1908, 1910 and 1912. But controversies surrounding the indictment of the Essex County Democratic boss James R. Nugent (who had been dumped by Gov. Woodrow Wilson as Democratic State Chairman) helped Republican Thomas Raymond unseat Haussling in the 1914 election.

Haussling became depressed after his loss and committed suicide nine years later at age 66. “They all left him,” his widow told the reporter who wrote his obituary. “A few years ago he couldn’t walk the streets without being stopped by thousands of friends. But that was all changed, and it broke his heart.”

He won four terms as Mayor of Newark on the ‘What’ll you have?’ plank, and then killed himself