No Love in 4th, the state’s #1 swing seat for a dozen years

The surprise retirement of freshman Assemblywoman Sandra Love (D-Gloucester Township) means that the fourth district, which had a Republican Senator and a Republican Assemblyman as recently as 2003, will get its fourth new legislator in four consecutive cycles.

Traditionally, one Assembly seat goes to Washington Township (population 51,827) and the other to Gloucester Township (pop. 65,687) in this Gloucester-Camden district. Paul Moriarty, a former Washington Township Mayor, won the other seat in 2005.

Love, who was Mayor of Gloucester Township for twelve years, was the top vote-getter in her 2007 race, edging out Moriarty by 62 votes. She outpolled Republican Patricia Fratticcioli by nearly 4,000 votes.

The district was solidly Democratic until the Republican landslide of 1991, when Republican John Matheussen beat Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Marsella for an open Senate seat, and Republicans George Geist and Mary Virginia Weber won the two Assembly seats.

While Matheussen and Geist were able to hold their seats, the second Assembly seat became one of the most competitive in the state. Weber lost in 1993 to Sean Dalton, who is now the Gloucester County Prosecutor and the brother of former Senate Majority Leader and N.J. Secretary of State Daniel Dalton. Republican Gerald Luongo won the seat back in 1997, but lost it to Democrat Robert Smith two years later.

Matheussen, who lost a Republican U.S. Senate primary in 2002, resigned from the Senate in 2003 to become Executive Director of the Delaware River Port Authority. Geist moved up to the Senate, but in one of the most expensive Senate races in state history; he lost to former State Police Superintendent Frederick Madden by just 63 votes. Geist’s successor in the Assembly, Stephen Altamuro, also lost.

Republicans were not especially competitive in the fourth in 2005 or 2007.

Love replaced David Mayer, who opted not to seek re-election to a third term in the Assembly in 2007. Mayer is now running for Mayor of Gloucester Township, challenging Republican incumbent Cindy Rau-Hatton. Smith left the Legislature voluntarily in 2005 and was replaced by Moriarty, a former Philadelphia TV consumer reporter.

Geist now serves as an Administrative Law Judge. Matheussen has become aligned with South Jersey Democrats, and Altamuro, who lost his seat on the Washington Township Council, has switched to the Democratic Party.

No Love in 4th, the state’s #1 swing seat for a dozen years