Thomas Mathis

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.

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Some Ocean County GOP history

DiAnne Gove, who is expected to replace Daniel Van Pelt in the ninth district State Assembly seat, would become the sixth woman to represent Ocean County in the Legislature, and the first since Virginia Haines left in 1994.  Under the current State Constitution, Ocean County has elected 22 men and 4 women. 

The first Assemblywoman from Ocean County was Lila Thompson, who was elected in 1923 and re-elected in 1924.  Thompson gave up her Assembly seat in 1925 to run for the State Senate, challenging incumbent Thomas Mathis in the Republican primary.  Mathis was one of the most venerable politicians in Ocean County history.  Known as Cap'n Tom because he commanded J. Pierpont Morgan's America's Cup yacht for eleven years,

Starting his career as a Tuckerton Councilman, Mathis won a special election for an unexpired term in the State Senate in 1910.  He lost re-election in the 1911 primary, won his seat back in 1913, and lost it again in the 1915 primary.  Mathis returned to the Senate in 1923 and became Chairman of the Joint Appropriations Committee.

Thompson's campaign against Mathis was dominated by a process story: the Assemblywoman's husband, a state employee, was sent to Massachusetts for several weeks during the primary to conduct a survey of correctional institutions there.  The problem for Thompson was that at night, her husband was her driver; in those days, women did not drive alone at night, especially in a county that was then sparsely populated and without major roads.

Thompson decided to drive alone anyway, and accused the Ocean County Republican organization of engineering her husband's exile out of state.  Her husband, according to local lore, was offered a deal to return to New Jersey if he would sign a document exonerating two Department of Institutions and Agencies employees for their role in the exile.  He refused, and after several newspaper editorials slammed the GOP organization, he came home.

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The Back Room

Sources: Why Fox?

With the support of Gov. Chris Christie, Jamie Fox is on the fast track to get back to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The question is why?

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 18th

Guv prospects Fulop and Sweeney add voices to Silva, Stack and striking 1199 SEIU workers UNION CITY – They tried out their blue collar tough guy tonsils today in front of a purple-shirted crowd of striking healthcare workers – two of three as-yet-undeclared Democratic candidates for governor: Jersey City...


Legislation needed for publicly financed gubernatorial elections

By JEFF BRINDLE It is critical that the Legislature soon enact a pending bill that would ensure the state’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program is available in the event of a special election for governor.  Not only is there no current legal... Read More >


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Quote of the Day

quote of the day

“We’re going to hold the line until hell freezes over, and when hell freezes over, we’re going to hold the line on ice skates." - Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-31), at yesterday's SEIU 1199 rally.

- PolitickerNJ


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