James S. DeBosh, the last Democrat to win a seat on the Warren County Board of Freeholders, has died. He was 66.
DeBosh was elected freeholder in 1999, defeating Republican Gloria Decker, a former Phillipsburg mayor who had served as Democratic county chair in the early 1970s before her party switch, by 529 votes.
After DeBosh’s victory, Democrats took a 2-1 majority on the three-member board. Republicans took control one-year later when Michael Doherty, now a state senator, defeated incumbent Ann M. Stone by 11 percentage points in 2000.
DeBosh did not seek re-election in 2002 and Republican Richard Gardner flipped the seat with a 15-point win over Democrat Jane Santini.
An attorney, DeBosh later got a job at a spokesman for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition while James E. McGreevey was governor. He recently worked as a substitute teacher in Phillipsburg.
“Jim leaves a lasting legacy and positive influence on all who knew him,” the Phillipsburg Democratic Party said in a statement posted on social media. “He will be greatly missed.”
Now solidly Republican, Warren had been a politically competitive county one-and-off for generations.
When Republicans won 59 of 60 seats in the New Jersey State Assembly in 1920, the lone Democrat in the lower house was Harry Runyan (D-Belvidere).
Warren County elected a Democrat, Robert N. Meyner (D-Phillipsburg), to the State Senate in 1947, ousted him in 1951 by 46 votes, and then backed him with 70% of the vote when he ran for Governor in 1953.
Since Watergate, seven Democrats have won countywide races in Warren, but not since DeBosh in 1999.