After their ’73 trouncing, GOP came back in ’75

After the 1973 election left Assembly Republicans with just fourteen seats, the GOP actually came close to winning control of the lower house in 1975, Brendan Byrne's mid-term election year. That would likely have meant the return of Thomas Kean as Assembly Speaker; in turn, that could have altered the political landscape for the 1977 gubernatorial election.

Republicans picked up seventeen seats in '75, ousting eleven incumbents and picking up six open seats. That reduced the Assembly Democratic majority from 66-14 to 49-31.

Seven other Democratic incumbents won close races: Walter Kozloski (D-Freehold) by 428 votes, Robert Burns (D-Hasbrouck Heights) by 638 votes, Steven Perksie (D-Margate) by 725 votes, Harold Martin (D-Cresskill) by 995 votes, Mary Keating Croce (D-Pennsauken) by 1,068 votes, Vincent Ozzie Pellecchia (D-Paterson) by 1,275 votes, and Paul Contillo (D-Paramus) by 1,821 votes.

For Republicans, winning the next three seats to bring them to 41 would have been tougher: Daniel Newman (D-Brick) and John Paul Doyle (D-Toms River) won by 2,163 and 2,860 votes, respectively. And Richard Vistotcky (D-Garfield) won by 3,433 votes.

Among the incumbents unseated in 1975 were: Superior Court Judge John Sweeney (D-Florence), beaten by future U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton; future U.S. Rep. Herbert Klein (D-Clifton), who was defeated by Republican Emil Olszowy (R-Passaic); Betty Wilson (D-Berkeley Heights), who lost to future Senate President and Acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco (R-Scotch Plains); and Gordon MacInnes (D-Morris Township), who lost to future Senate Majority Leader John Dorsey (R-Boonton) – MacInnes came back eighteen years later to beat Dorsey in a State Senate race.

Of the 25 incumbents who lost their seats in the '73 Watergate landslide, seven sought to return to Trenton in 1975. Four were successful: Frank McDermott (R-Westfield), a former Senate President and gubernatorial candidate, who won a Union County Assembly seat along with another ousted incumbent, Louis Bassano (R-Union) — they ousted incumbent Joseph Garrubbo (D-Union and picked up an open seat where Democratic Assemblyman John McCarthy (D-Garwood) did not seek re-election; Brian Kennedy won an Assembly seat in Monmouth County, ousting Gertrude Berman (D-Long Branch); and John Dennis (R-Verona) won a rematch with Robert Ruane (D-Bloomfield).

Former Assemblyman William Dickey and Eugene Raymond lost comeback bids in Camden County (losing to Croce and John Gallagher), and former Assemblyman Peter Russo was defeated by Visotcky.

Another former Assemblyman, Jerome Burke, who represented Essex County from 1964 to 1966, lost to Kozloski in a Monmouth County race.

After their ’73 trouncing, GOP came back in ’75