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1977 New Jersey State Senate election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

New Jersey State Senate Elections, 1977

← 1973 November 8, 1977 1981 →

40 of the 40 seats in the New Jersey State Senate
21 seats needed for a majority
  Majority party Minority party
Leader Matthew Feldman James Cafiero
Party Democratic Republican
Leader's seat District 37 District 1
Last election 29 Seats 10 Seats
Seats won 27 13
Seat change Decrease 2 Increase 3

  Third party
Party Independent
Last election 1 Seat
Seats before 1
Seats won 0
Seat change Decrease 1

Senate President before election

Matthew Feldman

Elected Senate President

Joseph P. Merlino

The 1977 New Jersey State Senate election coincided with Brendan Byrne's re-election to a second term as Governor of New Jersey.

While Republicans had high hopes of winning back the Senate, Democrats lost just two seats, with Republicans picking up three and the lone Independent in the Senate also losing.[1]


The state was to be divided into 40 legislative districts for the first time in 1973, with each district electing one State Senator and two members of the General Assembly. The 1977 elections was the second time the current legislative districting map was in effect. The districts were drawn first to achieve a population balance (districts were drawn to be within +/- 4% of each other), and then to be as geographically compact as possible. Many districts included parts of several counties. Some districts had more than one incumbent.[2]

Until 1965, the New Jersey State Senate was composed of 21 Senators, with each county electing one Senator. After the U.S. Supreme Court, in Reynolds v. Sims (more commonly known as One Man, One Vote), required redistricting by state legislatures for congressional districts to keep represented populations equal, as well as requiring both houses of state legislatures to have districts drawn that contained roughly equal populations, and to perform redistricting when needed.[3] In 1965, the Senate was increased from 21 members to 29 members, and larger counties were given more than one seat, and some smaller counties shared one or two Senators. The map was changed again in 1967, and again in 1971, as the state adjusted to the one man, one vote ruling.

Incumbents who lost re-election

Five incumbent Democratic Senators were defeated in the June primary; Democrats held four of the seats, and Republicans picked up one seat:[4]

Two incumbent Democratic Senators who were denied party support for another term ran in the General Election as Independent candidates and were defeated; Democrats held both of these seats:[5]

Two incumbent Democratic Senators were defeated for re-election:[6]

  • District 10: Herbert Buehler (D-Monmouth) lost to Republican Brian Kennedy, a former Assemblyman from Monmouth County.
  • District 23: Stephen Wiley (D-Morris) lost to Republican John H. Dorsey, an Assemblyman from Monmouth County.

One incumbent Independent Senator was defeated for re-election, a Democratic pickup:[7]

Open seats

Three incumbent Republican Senators did not seek re-election in 1977; Republicans held two seats and Democrats picked up one seat:[8]

Three incumbent Democratic Senators did not seek re-election in 1977; Democrats held both seats:[9]

One Democratic Senator resigned from the Senate in 1977 after receiving a federal appointment; that seat was picked up by the Republicans:[10]

Incumbents who were reelected

Sixteen incumbent Democratic Senators were re-elected in 1977:[11]

Seven incumbent Republican Senators were re-elected in 1977:[12]

Key primary races

  • District 6: Alene Ammond lost support of the Camden Democratic organization and Senate Democrats had tossed her out of their caucus. Pachter, a former Cherry Hill Councilman, beat Ammond by just 533 votes (47%-43%).[13]
  • District 7: Assemblyman Charles B. Yates beat Senator Edward J. Hughes by just 352 votes (52%-49%).[14]
  • District 19: Larry Weiss beat incumbent Jack Fay by 2,686 votes (54%-46%).[15]
  • District 23: Assemblyman John H. Dorsey defeated former Assemblyman Albert Merck in the Republican Senate primary by a 62%-38% margin.[16] Merck was the heir to the Merck & Co. pharmaceutical fortune.
  • Districts 31 & 32: Two incumbents were defeated by wide margins in the June Democratic Primary in the aftermath of the May election for Mayor of Jersey City. James Dugan was the incumbent Democratic State Chairman, but Walter Sheil had the backing of Mayor-elect Thomas F.X. Smith. Dugan finished third in a field of four candidates, more than 8,000 votes behind Sheil.[17] Friedland also had Smith's backing; Tumulty lost by almost 15,000 votes, 77%-23%.[18]

Key general election races

  • Republican Pickup in District 6: With Democrats split after Ammond's primary loss, Republicans replaced the winner of the GOP primary, Addison Bradley, and replaced him with Laskin, who was a stronger General Election candidate. Laskin won by 2,374 votes (52%-48%).[19]
  • Republican Pickup in District 23: Democrat Stephen B. Wiley, an unexpected '73 winner in heavily GOP Morris County, was not supposed to even run for re-election; Gov. Byrne had nominated him as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, but he was unable to take the post because of a state law that prevented legislators from taking jobs for which they had voted to raise the pay.[20]
  • Democratic Pickup in District 30: Incumbent Anthony Imperiale, elected as an Independent in 1973, lost to Democrat Frank E. Rodgers, the longtime Mayor of Harrison, 48%-35%. Republican Harry J. Romeo ran third with 17%.[21]
  • Democratic Pickup in District 35: Republican Frank Davenport, who beat an incumbent Democrat in 1973 by just 93 votes, did not seek re-election. Democrat Frank X. Graves, the Mayor of Paterson, defeated former Assemblyman Alfred Fontanella by a 56%-40% margin.[22]
  • Two incumbents, Thomas Dunn (the Mayor of Elizabeth) in Union County,[23] and Joseph McGahn in Atlantic County,[24] lost party support for re-election. Rather than compete in Democratic primaries, both ran as Independents and lost.[25] In Atlantic, Assembly Majority Leader Steven P. Perskie defeated Republican Frederick Perrone by a 48%-30% margin, with McGahn finishing third with 22%. In Union, Assemblyman John Gregorio (who was also the Mayor of Linden) defeated Dunn, 47%-32%, with Republican Robert T. Walsh finishing third with 19%.[26]


Democrats chose Joseph P. Merlino as the Senate President and Carmen Orechio as Majority Leader; Republicans named Garrett Hagedorn as Minority Leader.[27]


  1. ^ Fitzgerald's New Jersey Legislative Manual. Joseph J. Gribbons. 1976.
  2. ^ Sullivan, Ronald (9 March 1973). "JERSEY APPROVES DISTRICTING PLAN; Reapportions State Senate and Assembly Seats for this Year's Elections Jersey Panel Approves a Plan To Redistrict Legislative Seats Jersey Panel Approves a Plan To Redistrict Legislative Seats". New York Times.
  3. ^ "JERSEY ORDERED TO REAPPORTION; Judge Finds Congressional Districts Unconstitutional". New York Times. 21 May 1965.
  4. ^ "Results of the Primary Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  5. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  8. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  9. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Results of the General Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. State of New Jersey. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  16. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  19. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  20. ^ NARVAEZ, ALFONSO A. (10 October 1977). "G.O.P. Expected to Maintain Strength In Morris, Union and Essex Counties". New York Times.
  21. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  22. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  23. ^ NARVAEZ, ALFONSO A. (17 October 1977). "Democrats Running Strong in Campaigns in 13th, 17th and 21st Districts". New York Times.
  24. ^ Janson, Donald (5 March 1977). "Perskie Likely to Oppose mcgahn in Senate Race". New York Times.
  25. ^ "Our Campaigns". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  26. ^ "Our Campaigns".
  27. ^ Fitzgerald's New Jersey Legislative Manual. Joseph J. Gribbons. 1978.
This page was last edited on 17 January 2021, at 20:16
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