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Former Cape May County GOP Chairman Phil Matalucci. (Radzieta Funeral Home).

Phil Matalucci, legendary Cape May GOP chairman, dies at 91

Top advisor to Charles Sandman, a former N.J. Senate President, congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate

By David Wildstein, September 12 2022 10:26 am

Philip R. Matalucci, Jr., a popular former Cape May County Republican Chairman whose political influence extended throughout the state and was a fixture at national party conventions for massive elephant hats that adorned his head, died on September 7.  He was 91.

Matalucci served as the GOP county chairman from 1975 until his retirement in 1986.  He also served as Cape May County Treasurer from 1973 to 1991.    For a time, he was the chairman of the New Jersey Republican county chairmen.   He was an early supporter of Ronald Reagan’s bid for the presidency.

Cape May County Republican Chairman Phil Matalucci, left, with State Sen. James Cafiero, Assemblyman James Hurley, and President Gerald Ford in 1976.

He had served as a top political advisor to Rep. Charles W. Sandman (R-Erma), a former Senate President and gubernatorial candidate.  He helped Sandman defeat incumbent Gov. William Cahill in the 1973 Republican primary.    One of Matalucci’s daughters, Susan, served as an assistant counsel to Gov. Thomas Kean and married Sandman’s son, Robert.

Matalucci ran for Cape May County freeholder twice, but without success.  He was unable to oust incumbent Joseph Rixley, Jr. in the 1968 and 1971 Republican primaries. .

He had served in the U.S. Navy.  While serving in the Philippines, Matalucci won lightweight and middleweight Navy boxing championships.

Matalucci and his brothers ran Sand and Gravel, Cape Concrete, Avalon Trampoline Center, Avalon Miniature Golf, Avalon’s Tastee Freeze and the Sea Isle Inn.   He once won nearly $4 million in the state lottery.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, his children and grandchildren.

Services will be held on Saturday, September 17 at Radzietta Funeral Home in Cape May Courthouse at 9 AM.

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