The history of the Adler seat

Only two Democrats have won what is now the third congressional district since Chester Arthur was President: Thomas Ferrell and John Adler. PolitickerNJ.com looks at the chain of custody, not district numbers, to determine the lineage of a particular seat in Congress.

In 1882, with just 50.1% of the vote, Ferrell, a former State Senator, Assemblyman and Glassboro Committeeman, ousted Republican George Robeson, a two-term Congressman with an impressive resume. A Civil War General, Robeson spent two years as state Attorney General and nearly eight years as U.S. Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of President Ulysses Grant.

Ferrell was beaten for re-election in 1884 by Republican George Hires, a former Salem County Sheriff and State Senator. Hires won 50%-45%, starting a 124-year streak of Republican victories in this congressional district.

A hire gave up his seat after two terms and was succeeded by Christopher Bergen, a lawyer from Camden. When Bergen ran for a third term in 1892, he was beaten in the GOP primary by Henry Clay Loudenslager, the Gloucester County Clerk. Loudenslager served in Congress until his death in 1911; his replacement was William Browning, a former Camden Board of Education member who had spent sixteen years as the Chief Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Browning died in office in 1920.

The new Congressman elected in 1920 was Francis Patterson, a former Assemblyman and Camden County Clerk. He was ousted in the 1926 Republican primary by Charles Wolverton, a former Assembly Speaker and Camden County Prosecutor. Wolverton spent 32 years in Congress before his retirement in 1958.

The race for Wolverton’s open seat in the Democratic year of 1958 was extremely competitive. The winner, by a narrow 50%-49% margin, was Republican William Cahill, a former Assemblyman from Camden County. He beat Alexander Feinberg, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney from Haddonfield by just 1,829 votes. During that campaign, Feinberg formed a lasting friendship with the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Harrison Williams. In 1981, Feinberg was Williams’ co-defendant in the ABSCAM trial; both were convicted on nine counts of bribery and conspiracy charges.

Cahill held the seat with little trouble, even wining 56% in the Democratic landslide of 1964. He resigned from Congress after his election as Governor in 1969.

The winner of a 1970 special election to replace Cahill was Edwin Forsythe, a former Senate President and Mayor of Moorestown. Forsythe served until his death in 1984; he was replaced by State Sen. James Saxton.

The seat held by Saxton and now by Adler has little resemblance to the one Ferrell won in 1882. When congressional districts were redrawn in 1966 after the U.S. Supreme Court’s one-man, one-vote decision, a district in Essex County (held by Democrat Paul Krebs) was eliminated and replaced with a new Camden/Gloucester district. The new map, incidentally, was drawn by a Democratic Legislature and approved by the Democratic Governor.

The new seat was won by John Hunt, a State Senator and former Gloucester County Sheriff. Hunt beat Democrat Michael Piarulli, a Camden County Freeholder and former Camden City Council President, 51%-46%. Hunt served four terms before losing to Assemblyman James Florio in the 1974 Watergate landslide. This is the seat now held by Rob Andrews.

The Adler seat was labeled the 1st district until 1966, when it became the 6th and the Andrews seat became the 1st. The Adler seat became the 13th district after redistricting in 1982, and became the 3rd district after redistricting in 1992.

The history of the Adler seat