Home>Campaigns>Andy Maguire is New Jersey’s only living ‘Watergate Baby’

Rep. Andrew Maguire (D-Ridgewood) is administered the oath of office as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives by House Speaker Carl Albert at a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony in 1975. Photo courtesy of Rutgers University, Special Collections and Archives.

Andy Maguire is New Jersey’s only living ‘Watergate Baby’

Ex-LBJ administration official ousted 13-term Republican for seat now held by Gottheimer

By David Wildstein, November 23 2022 2:17 pm

The death of Jim Florio in September leaves just one living member of New Jersey’s Watergate Babies, a group of 49 Democrats who flipped House seats in the 1974 mid-term elections.

Andrew Maguire (D-Ridgewood), now 83, had served in Lyndon Johnson’s administration as political and security affairs advisor at the U.S. Department of State and on the staff of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations before returning to Bergen County to mount a bid for freeholder in 1972.

Maguire is the only living New Jersey congressman to serve during the presidency of Gerald R. Ford.   The only Watergate Baby still serving is Patrick Leahy, who won a U.S. Senate seat in 1974 at age 34; Leahy did not seek re-election this year and will leave office on January 3, 2023 after 48 years in office.

In a race for an unexpired term, Maguire won 49% of the vote against Republican incumbent Kenneth Sherwood.   He was quickly tagged as a rising star after running first among four Democratic freeholder candidates, including the venerable mayor of Cliffside Park, Gerald Calabrese.

In early 1974, Maguire announced his intention to challenge Rep. William Widnall (R-Saddle River), who was serving his 25th year as a congressman from Bergen County – he held the seat now represented by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff).   The 68-year-old Widnall, the ranking Republican on the House Banking Committee, had won 58% in 1972 – he ran eight percentage points behind President Richard Nixon – and with the Watergate scandal blowing up, Democrats viewed him as vulnerable.

Maguire wasn’t the only Democrat in the race: former State Sen. Ned Parsekian (D-Ridgewood), Bergen County Surrogate Gill C. Job,  two-term Assemblyman Edward Hynes (D-Maywood) and Marjorie Wyngaarden, the founder of Northern NJ NOW and former chair of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Bergen County chapter.

Bergen County Democratic Chair Barbara Werber decided to run an open primary and allowed all five candidates to run in the organization column; all but Wyngaarden accepted the offer. Maguire landed endorsements from the AFL-CIO and the Bergen County Building Trades and landed the top ballot position in the primary.

Parsekian had moved from Flemington to Montvale in 1964 after the Republican state senator from Hunterdon County had blocked his nominations as state Division of Motor Vehicles director and as a Superior Court Judge.  His move was made with the plan to run for the Senate and he became the top vote-getter in the 1965 election.   He sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1969.

Job spent 35 years as the surrogate – he was first elected in 1957 after serving as an Allendale school board member and assemblyman – and had won three times as a Republican and then four times as a Democrat.

Hynes had flipped a Republican Assembly seat in 1971 at age 25 by just 59 votes and held it easily in the 1973 Democratic wave election; he didn’t seek re-election in 1975 and won 38% in his 1994 bid for Bergen County Executive.

Maguire won the primary by 5,786 votes over Parsekian, 52%-25%, with Job receiving 11% in his third place finish.  Hynes came in fourth with 9%, and Wyngaarden received less than 3%.

In the general election, Maguire ousted Widnall by 8,431 votes, 49.7%-44.4%.

Ford carried the 7th by a 58%-42% margin in 1976,but Maguire defeated Republican James Sheehan, a Wyckoff township committeeman, by 13 points to secure a second term.

The Republican challenger against Maguire in 1978 was Marge Roukema, a former Ridgewood school board member.

Roukema won the primary, 39%-32%, against a well-known name in the Republican primary: Joseph Woodcock (R-Cliffside Park), who served 12 years as an assemblyman and state senator, four years as the Bergen County prosecutor, and was briefly a candidate for the 1977 Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Maguire won by six points but lost a 1980 rematch to Roukema.

In 1982, Maguire sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator after the four-term incumbent, Harrison Williams, was convicted in the Abscam scandal.   He finished second in a ten-candidate field, losing to businessman Frank Lautenberg by 11,788 votes, 26%-23%.   Maguire carried just Bergen County, but he did that with 63% of the vote and a 22,014-vote margin.

Roukema held the seat for 22 years; she was succeeded in 2002 by Assemblyman Scott Garrett (R-Wantage), who had nearly defeated Roukema in the 1998 and 2000 Republican primaries.  Garrett served for 14 years until Gottheimer ousted him in 2016.

Maguire mulled a comeback bid in 2012 against Garrett but decided against it.

The other three Democrats who flipped New Jersey congressional seats in 1974 – William Hughes (D-Ocean City), Helen Meyner (D-Phillipsburg) and Florio – are now deceased.

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