Dr. David Dichter, the Democratic candidate for Congress against Rep. Charles W. Sandman (R-Erma) in 1968, died on December 28. He was 89.
Dichter was the second longest-living former New Jersey congressional candidate, after Richard J. Trainor, 91, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Florence Dwyer (R-Elizabeth) in 1964.
New Jersey’s 2nd district congressional seat had been solidly Republican until 1964, when Thomas C. McGrath, Jr. (D-Margate) ousted incumbent Milton W. Glenn (R-Margate) by 2,267 votes, 51%-49%, in Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide election year.
Sandman, a former State Senate President who had sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 1965, ran against McGrath in 1966 and unseated him by 6,520 votes, 51.5% to 46.8%.
Dichter, an assistant professor of History at Atlantic County Community College, decided to run against Sandman in 1968. As an expert on South Asia, he mounted a campaign that included opposition to the war in Vietnam.
In the Democratic primary, Dichter scored a 66%-25% victory over Sam Costello, with Joseph Wilkins finishing third with 9%.
(Wilkins later became an assistant state labor commissioner and business manager of the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 322. He spent ten years as the treasurer of the South Jersey Building Trades Council.)
Sandman defeated Dichter by 17,857 votes, 55%-44%.
While Dichter held Sandman to 51% in Atlantic County, the incumbent took Cape May with 67%, Cumberland with 53%, and Salem with 58%.
Richard Nixon just narrowly carried the 2nd district in the 1968 presidential election, edging out Democrat Hubert Humphrey by 506 votes, 44%-44%. Independent George Wallace received 11% of the vote in the 2nd.
Dichter had made his first run for public office in 1967, running in the Democratic primary for an Atlantic County State Assembly seat.
Running off the organization line, Dichter lost by just 115 votes in a countywide race.
Samuel Abel (2,369) and William Dunbar (2,333) defeated John Walters (2,269) and Dichter (2,218). Abel and Dunbar went on to lose the general election to Republicans Albert S. Smith (R-Northfield), the Assembly Majority Leader, and Samuel Curcio (R-Hammonton) and lost by more than 15,000 votes.
Dichter spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, served as the U.S. Peace Corps Desk Officer for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and worked as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in Thailand and Burma.
He grew up in Atlantic City – his father owned the Dichter hotel — and later earned a Ph.D. Economic and Political Geography.
Dichter is survived by his wife, two children, and three grandchildren.
The title of longest-living congressional candidate – it doesn’t necessarily mean oldest, just the longest time ago – has switched twice this year.
Martin S. Fox, a Millburn attorney who ran for Congress against Rep. Robert W. Kean (R-Livingston) in 1952 and 1954, died of complications related to COVID-19 in April. He was 95.
Porecca, a former Millville City Commissioner who ran against Rep. Milton Glenn (R-Margate) in 1962, was 85 when he died on Friday evening.
Another Eisenhower and Kennedy era congressional candidate, A. Jerome Moore, died in 2018 at age 94. Moore ran against Rep. Frank Thompson (D-Trenton) in 1958 and 1960.
Rep. Cornelius Gallagher (D-Bayonne), who represented part of Hudson County in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1959 to 1973, died in 2018 at age 97.
The earliest serving living congressman from New Jersey are Florio and Andrew Maguire (D-Ridgewood), who defeated Republican incumbents in the 1974 Watergate landslide. Florio, Maguire and Harold Hollenbeck (R-East Rutherford) are the only remaining New Jersey congressmen to serve while Gerald Ford was president; Hollenbeck took his seat seventeen days before Ford left office.
New Jersey’s oldest living congressman is Frank J. Guarini (D-Jersey City), who is 95. Guarini served from 1979 to 1993.