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Eugene F. Deutsch, a major player in Union County politics in the 1960s and 1970s, died on August 1. He was 90.
Deutsch started out in politics in 1959 when Assemblyman-elect Nelson Stamler (R-Elizabeth) named him as his legislative aide. When Stamler moved up to the Senate in 1961, Deutsch remained on his staff.
During a fight for control of the Union County Republican organization in 1964 that included a primary battle for freeholder seats and county committee seats, Stamler put Deutsch in charge of his slate, which was filed as the Nelson F. Stamler Association. The Stamler slate won the primary.
When Stamler mulled a bid for the 1965 Republican nomination for governor, he put Deutsch in charge of that effort. He did not run after falling short of securing key county chairman endorsements.
Deutsch became a campaign advisor to Assemblyman Frank X. McDermott (R-Westfield), who ran for the State Senate when Stamler decided not to seek re-election to a third term. After McDermott won the Senate seat, he asked Deutsch to remain as his aide.
McDermott became Senate President in 1969 and with Deutsch’s help that year, he sought the Republican nomination for governor. McDermott finished fourth in a field of five candidates that year, winning 9% of the vote.
Gov. William Cahill, a Republican who was elected in 1969, appointed Deutsch to serve as Assistant Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs in January 1970. Deutsch survived a staff shakeup after the 1971 mid-term elections when Cahill replaced Community Affairs Commissioner Edmund Hume, a former Mayor of Maplewood, with Paterson Mayor Lawrence “Pat” Kramer.
Cahill lost renomination in the 1973 Republican primary and Deutsch departed state government in early 1974 to become a top executive for United Metals Refining Company. Deutsch led a move to invest about $3 million to correct an odor problem at their Carteret manufacturing facility and spearheaded a move to build a 8 million-gallon lagoon to recycle water that came into contact with copper and other metals.
Later, Deutsch became chairman of a committee formed by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association to help businesses become more friendly environmental neighbors.
After United Metals was sold to American Climax Metals (AMAX), Deutsch became their top lobbyist. The company closed their Carteret plan in 1988. In the 1990s, Deutsch served as chairman of New Jersey Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a tort reform advocacy group.
Deutsch served in the New Jersey Army National Guard and retired as a major.
Funeral services will be held on August 4 at noon at the Higgins and Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home in Westfield.