Ever heard of Norman Roth? A switch of 29 votes and he would have been a Republican Congressman from Jersey City.

Republican Norman Roth, a 40-year-old lawyer for the Jersey City Board of Education, came with 57 votes of winning a seat in Congress in 1956, but fortunately for the incumbent, Jersey City came through with a few extra votes for the Democratic incumbent after the polls had closed. This was one of the closest House races in New Jersey history.

Roth’s bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Alfred Sieminski, 45, benefitted greatly by the coattails of President Dwight Eisenhower, who carried Hudson County in his re-election campaign against Adlai Stevenson. Two years earlier, Sieminski, a veteran of World War II and Korea who went to Princeton and Harvard Law School, won a third term in Congress with an easy 61%-27% victory over Roth.

In another Hudson district, Republican Vincent Dellay upset Democratic U.S. Rep. James Tumulty by a 52%-46% margin. Tummulty was the nephew of Joseph Tumulty, a former Assemblyman who was Woodrow Wilson’s Chief of Staff (in those days, the job was called Secretary) in the Governor’s office and in the White House.

Seeking his first term in 1954, the 41-year-old Tummulty, a former Assembly Minority Leader who later became Secretary to the Mayor of Jersey City, beat Dellay, 62%-35%. Dellay, 47, was state Treasury Department auditor,

Hoping for a second term as the Congressman from Hudson County, Dellay switched parties; the Hudson County Democratic Organization denied him party support and instead sent 50-year-old Dominick Daniels, a Jersey City Municipal Court Judge, to Congress.

After his near loss to Roth, Hudson Democrats decided to deny Sieminski a fifth term in 1958. His replacement was Cornelius Gallagher, a 37-year-old former Hudson County Freeholder and New Jersey Turnpike Commissioner. Gallagher served in Congress until 1972, when redistricting and ethics charges ended his political career.

Roth ran for office once more, for the State Senate in 1961. He won the Republican primary over banking executive Roger Dorian, but lost the general election to Democratic incumbent William Kelly, 61%-39%.

Dorian, a retired Marine Colonel, later won election to the Weehawken Council. In 1984, he won election to the Hudson County Board of Freeholders – the first Republican since 1956 – defeating incumbent Steve Cappiello, who was also the Mayor of Hoboken. He lost three years later to Francis Pizzuta, now a Weehawken school board member. Dorian later moved to Virginia, became active in local politics, and passed away in 2006.

The other Republican elected Hudson County Freeholder in 1984, Cuban-born, non-English speaking Octavio Alfonso, died several years ago. Alfonso upset Anthony DeVincent, an incumbent Freeholder and the powerful Mayor of North Bergen. DeVincent had survived a primary challenge from Frank Gargiulo, who would be elected as a Republican Assemblyman from Hudson County the following year.

Alfonso wanted to run for Congress against U.S. Rep. Frank Guarini in 1986, but the GOP instead ran a rising star from West New York, Albio Sires. Alfonso lost a 1989 bid for State Assembly.

While Alfonso’s win can be attributed to Ronald Reagan’s coattails, Dorian’s victory was more about some key Hudson County Democrats, including Jersey City Mayor Gerald McCann, wanting Cappiello out. Reagan carried Hudson but lost Hoboken to Walter Mondale; if anything, one longtime Hudson watcher says, most of the Cappiello vote was for Reagan and Dorian’s votes came from Mondale backers.

Sieminski won the open seat of Mary T. Norton, the first woman to win election to Congress from New Jersey and the first Democratic woman to serve in Congress. She was retiring after 26 years in the House. After the primary, Sieminksi, an Army reserve officer, volunteered for combat duty in Korea; his wife campaigned for him in the 1950 general election.

Ever heard of Norman Roth? A switch of 29 votes and he would have been a Republican Congressman from Jersey City.