Democrats had high hopes for Michael DeVita, a 35-year-old World War II Army captain who was elected Mayor of Paterson in 1947. DeVita unseated four-term Republican Mayor William Furrey by a massive 59%-41% margin. He was re-elected in 1949 with 65% of the vote despite his indictment on charges that he told a police officer to give false testimony in a state probe of illegal gambling; three months after the general election, a state Appellate Court judge dismissed the indictment.
In September 1951, former Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague alleged that the New Jersey Democratic Party was controlled by reputed mobster Abner "Longy" Zwillman, and named DeVita, the Passaic County Democratic Chairman, as one of the Democratic leaders Zwillman controlled. DeVita denied the allegations, but lost his bid for a third term that November to Republican Lester Titus by a 52%-48% margin. DeVita, at age 39, never returned to public office.