Former Camden County Democratic Chairman Robert Messick, a politically influential lawyer and major player in South Jersey politics for decades, passed away this weekend.
He was 84.
Messick became county chairman in 1979 in an election that followed a civil war among County Democrats. Then-Rep. Jim Florio (D-Runnemede) ran a top-to-bottom slate of candidates that took out the political machine of State Sen. Angelo Errichetti, the mayor of Camden.
George Norcross, then a young political operative, ran the campaign for the insurgency.
County Clerk Michael Keating was serving as county chairman and was facing ouster by Errichetti, so he teamed up with Florio. Keating was facing some legal issues and stepped aside as county chairman to make room for Messick.
Among Messick’s top priorities as county chairman was to help Florio secure the Democratic nomination for governor in 1981. Florio won the primary but lost the general election in the closest race in state history.
Messick suffered a setback in 1986 when the Camden County Board of Freeholders decided to give Joseph Borreggine another term as freeholder director. Messick had actively supported another candidate, Freeholder Joseph Roberts.
In June 1987, Messick announced that he would not seek re-election to a ninth one-year term as county chairman. He was replaced by Louis Meloni, whose ascension became easy when Cherry Hill Democratic Municipal Chair Lynn Kmiec dropped out of the race for health reasons. Meloni was replaced by Borreggine in 1988. Norcross became county chairman in 1989.
Messick later served as an Assistant Camden County Counsel and as special counsel to the Camden County Adjuster. He was the longtime Bellmawr Democratic Municipal Chairman and Borough Solicitor.
Arrangements are still pending.