There was a redistricting frenzy after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Reynolds v. Sims one man, one vote ruling of 1964. The Legislature had a new map for the 1965 election, followed by additional maps in 1967, 1969, 1971, and 1973. It wasn’t until 1973 that New Jersey went to forty districts, each with one Senate seat and two Assembly seats. Since that map, about three-quarters of the districts have elected legislators from both parties.
‘The current 5th District turned Democrat in 1973 after Republican State Senator Frank Italiano of Camden gave up the seat to accept a Judgeship. Italiano, who never lost an election over several terms as a City Commissioner and two terms as Senator, was the last Republican to win any office in Camden or the District. He defeated then-Camden Mayor Al Pierce in a stunning upset victory in the 1967 Senate race and then won reelection in 1969.
Republicans have held the Somerset County-based 16th district, although future Commissioner of Human Services Tim Carden nearly won an Assembly seat in 1977, even though State Sen. Raymond Bateman was at the top of the ticket as the GOP candidate for Governor.
Democrats have never lost the Middlesex-based 17th, which was dominated by the father and son John Lynch team despite the younger Lynch’s near-loss to Edward Tiller in 1991. The district was briefly represented by a Republican when Assemblywoman Angela Perun switched parties after Democrats dropped her from their ticket in 1985. As a Republican, she lost by just a few hundred votes to the Mayor of Piscataway, Bob Smith.
In 1991, Republicans almost won an Assembly seat in the Union County-based 20th, when Richard Hunt came within 900 votes of beating the venerable Thomas Dunn, the seven-term Mayor of Elizabeth and former State Senator. Raymond Lesniak won a fourth term with 57% of the vote, the lowest general election percentage of his thirty year political career.
Three Essex County districts have never elected Republicans: the ones now represented by Richard Codey, Ronald Rice and Teresa Ruiz. Another Essex district, won by Democrats in 1973 when Nutley Mayor Carmen Orechio ousted Republican State Sen. Michael Giuliano, regularly elected Democrats and Republicans to the Assembly until it was eliminated in 1991. The seat was shifted to Ocean and Burlington counties, and now the 30th only elects Republicans.
While Republicans held four Hudson County Assembly seats (Districts 32 and 33) from 1986 to 1988 – their first legislative victory since 1920 – Democrats have never lost the 31st. Their closest call came in 1991, when Bret Schundler won 42% against Democratic State Sen. Edward O’Connor. Schundler was elected Mayor the following year in a non-partisan race.
In Bergen County, Democrats have kept a firm grip on the 37th since Matthew Feldman ousted Republican State Sen. Joseph Woodcock in 1973. And the Republicans have never lost in the 40th, which now includes parts of Passaic and Essex counties.
Under the current map drawn in 2001, districts 1, 2, 4, 7, 12, 14, 36, and 38 have been won by at least one Democrat and one Republican.
Over the years, there have been some surprise winners – usually in a landslide year like 1973, 1985 or 1991. A partial list includes:
District 8: Democrat John Sweeney won an Assembly seat in 1973 against freshman Kenneth Wilkie, and lost to Jim Saxton in 1975. The last Democrat to win the 8th (Francis Bodine was a Democratic Assemblyman after he switched parties, but he never won) Sweeney went on to serve as Jim Florio’s Chief Counsel – they served together in the Assembly in 1974, before Florio was elected to Congress – and is now a Superior Court Judge.
District 12: Democrats Walter Kozloski and Morton Salkind won Assembly seats in 1973 (one of the losers was future Senate Minority Leader Thomas Gagliano), with legendary GOP Senator Alfred Beadleston keeping his Senate seat. Marie Muhler ousted Salkind in 1975, but Kozloski held the seat that year against former Assemblyman John Dawes, and again in 1977. In 1979, just weeks before dying of cancer at age 44, he lost his seat to a young attorney at Dawes’ firm, John Bennett. Salkind, a former Mayor of Marlboro, became a real estate developer, and after moving to Secaucus, became a member of the Hudson County Improvement Authority. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges.
District 15: In 1991, Republican Richard LaRossa scored an upset victory over State Sen. Gerald Stockman in the Mercer-based district, and John Hartmann, a law student, beat Democratic Assemblyman Gerald Naples. LaRossa held the seat in a 1993 rematch with Stockman – he lost to Shirley Turner in 1997 – but Hartmann lost his bid for a second term to Turner.
Districts 18 and 19: Republicans won in heavily-Democratic Middlesex County a couple of times. Republican Peter Garibaldi, the Mayor of Monroe and a former Assemblyman, upset State Sen. James Bornheimer in 1983; he lost in 1987 to Assemblyman Thomas Paterniti, a former Edison Mayor. Paterniti lost the 1991 Democratic primary to Harry Pozycki, who lost the general to Republican Jack Sinagra. Sinagra held the Senate seat until resigning to become a Port Authority Commissioner ten years later. The GOP won the 18th district Assembly seats in 1991 and 1993. In the 19th, Republican Randy Corman beat Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Laurence Weiss in 1991, and lost two years later to Woodbridge Mayor James E. McGreevey, a former Assemblyman and future Governor. Republicans won two Assembly seats in 1991, held them in 1993, and lost them in 1995.
District 23: Democrat Anne Martindell beat GOP State Sen. Bill Schluter in this Hunterdon-Mercer district in 1973; she left the legislature when Jimmy Carter appointed her U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand in 1977. Republicans won the Senate seat back when Martindell left with the legendary Walter “Moose” Foran, but Democrat Barbara McConnell won Foran’s open Assembly seat against Regina Meredith, the sister of General Alexander Haig, and held it in 1979, against Dick Zimmer. She sought the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1981 (Zimmer won her seat) and later became Commissioner of Commerce in the Florio administration.
District 24: Democrat Robert Shelton won an Assembly seat in 1973, defeating incumbent Walter Keough-Dwyer in a district that elected Republicans Wayne Dumont and Robert Littell that year. He lost two years later to Donald Albanese. The district has stayed Republican since.
District 25: Democrats have won a few times in heavily Republican Morris County. They swept in 1973, when Stephen Wiley won a State Senate seat and Gordon MacInnes and Rosemarie Totaro went to the Assembly after beating John Dorsey and Assemblyman Albert Merck. MacInnes and Totaro lost re-election in 1975 to John Dorsey and James Barry. Dorsey beat Wiley for the Senate in 1977, but Totaro came back and beat Joseph Maraziti, a former Congressman with ethics problems, for the Assembly. She lost to Arthur Albohn in 1979. MacInnes came back and beat Dorsey for the Senate in 1993, but lost to Anthony Bucco four years later.
District 26: Democrat John Sinsimer won in 1973, and lost his seat to Morris County Freeholder Dean Gallo two years later. He’s the last Democrat to win what is now the 26th.
District 35: Proving that all politics is local, the Paterson-based district actually elected a Republican Senator in the 1973 Democratic landslide. Frank Davenport, a former Paterson Mayor and Passaic County Sheriff, unseated State Sen. Joseph Lazzara; the two Democratic candidates, including future U.S. Rep. Herbert Klein, won the Assembly seats. Davenport retired four years later and former and future Paterson Mayor Frank Graves replaced him. In 1990, ethics allegations against newly-elected Assemblyman Cyril Yannarelli helped Republican Frank Catania win an Assembly seat. Catania held the seat in 1991 and 1993, and resigned in 1994 to take a state job.
District 39: In the ’73 Democratic landslide, Democrats elected a State Senator, Raymond Garramone (who beat former Assemblyman Harry Randall, the father of future Assemblywoman Lisa Randall), and two Assemblymen, Harold Martin and Herbert Gladstone. When Gladstone didn’t run again in 1975, John Markert won the open seat, but Martin held on. Garramone gave up his Senate seat in 1977 to challenge Brendan Byrne in the Democratic gubernatorial primary; Markert ran for the Senate and lost to former Bergen County Freeholder Frank Herbert – with Martin winning a third time in what is still a strong Republican district and Democrat Greta Kiernan beating Republican Gerald Cardinale. The Republicans swept in 1979, with Markert and Cardinale beating Herbert and Kiernan. Cardinale beat Herbert for the Senate seat in 1981 and the GOP has held the district ever since.