Osmers, Lance and Mathis

During World War II, three young elected officials from New Jersey gave up their public offices to go on active military service: Frank Osmers, 34-year-old two-term Congressman from Bergen County, gave up his House seat in 1942 so that he could go on active duty in the U.S. Army; Wesley Lance, a 35-year-old State Senator from Hunterdon County, resigned in 1943 to enter the U.S. Navy; and 44-year-old Steelman Mathis, a State Senator from Ocean County, quit the Senate in 1942 to go on active duty as a Coast Guard officer.

Osmers entered politics at age 22 when he was elected to the Haworth Council, and became Mayor five years later. He won a State Assembly seat at age 28, and was elected to Congress at age 31. The ninth district seat opened up in early 1938 after three-term Democrat Edward Kenney slipped in his Washington, D.C. hotel room and died; Osmers beat Vincent Clausen by a 50%-40% margin (a third candidate, Kenney's widow, dropped her independent bid two weeks before Election Day).

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Osmers enlisted as a private in the Army, but returned to Washington after President Franklin Roosevelt recalled Members of Congress from active military service. He did not seek re-election in 1942 and then went on active duty the day his term expired. He was replaced in the House by Harry Towe, an Assemblyman from Rutherford. When Towe resigned in 1951 to become a Deputy Attorney General (he was made Acting Bergen County Prosecutor), Osmers returned to Congress in a 1951 special election. He held the seat until East Rutherford Mayor Henry Helstoski beat him 50%-49% in the Democratic landslide of 1964 (one of Helstoski's young volunteers was Loretta Weinberg), and by a 51%-49% margin in a 1966 rematch.

Lance returned to the Senate in 1953 and served until his retirement in 1961; he was the Senate President in 1959. Mathis was replaced in the Senate by his father, Thomas Mathis, who had spent eleven years in the Senate and ten as New Jersey Secretary of State and was the Ocean County GOP boss. After the war ended, Mathis returned to the Senate where he spent the next nineteen years; he was Senate President in 1954. Osmers, Lance and Mathis