Home>In Memoriam>Weese Sandman, wife of former congressman and gubernatorial candidate, dies at 98

Marion Louise Sandman, the widow of former Rep. Charles W. Sandman, Jr., during the 1973 gubernatorial campaign. (Photo: Sandman for Governor).

Weese Sandman, wife of former congressman and gubernatorial candidate, dies at 98

South Jersey woman was a fixture on N.J. campaign circuit while during her late husband’s three bids for governor

By David Wildstein, October 20 2022 12:03 pm

Marion Louise Sandman, who sought to become the First Lady of New Jersey three times when her late husband ran for governor, died on October 6.  She was 98.

Known as Weese, she grew up in an Irish Catholic family in suburban Philadelphia where her father, Francis Cooney, owned a plumbing supply business.  She met Charles W. Sandman, Jr. in 1946 after his return from World War II, where he had been an U.S. Army aviator and spent seven months as a prisoner of war in Germany after his plane was shot down.

After working as a school secretary in Philadelphia, Weese Sandman raised six children while supporting Charlie Sandman’s political career.  He was elected to the State Senate in 1955, at age 34, and was re-elected twice.  He was the Senate President in 1964 and 1965.

Her family told a story of Ronald Reagan visiting the Sandman home in Erma in May 1975 to raise money for his challenge to President Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential nomination.  Reagan’s staff wanted him to enter the home from a back door, but Weese Sandman said that he’d have to use the front door “like everyone else.”

A staunch conservative, Charlie Sandman won a congressional seat in 1966, flipping New Jersey’s 2nd district seat.  The incumbent, Rep. Thomas C. McGrath, Jr. (D-Margate), had unseated Rep. Milton Glenn (R-Margate) by a 51%-49% margin on the coattails of Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 landslide victory.   Sandman beat Glenn in the GOP primary with 75% and that took out McGrath by a 51.5%-47% margin in the general election.

During his four terms as a congressman, Sandman served on the House Judiciary Committee.  His loyalty to President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate impeachment proceedings led to Sandman losing in the 1974 Democratic wave to Rep. William Hughes (D-Ocean City) by sixteen points.   Hughes, a former first assistant Cape May County Prosecutor, had won 48% against Sandman in 1970.

The job Sandman wanted most was governor of New Jersey.

He made his first gubernatorial run in 1965 in a bid to challenge Democratic Gov. Richard J. Hughes.  Sandman won organization lines in Passaic, Union, Ocean, and most of the South Jersey counties.  But a feud with his Senate colleague, Atlantic County GOP boss Frank “Hap” Farley, led State Sen. Wayne Dumont, Jr. (R-Phillipsburg) to win 64% of the vote in Atlantic, a 6,501-vote plurality.   Dumont won the primary by 3 ½ points and a margin of 12,911 votes.

A week after losing the Governor’ race, Sandman was elected Cape May County GOP Chairman.  Reapportionment had put Cape May in Farley’s district, and in the general election, Farley finished fourth in a race for two Senate seats.

Sandman ran for governor again in 1969 when Hughes was term-limited in a five-candidate race that included Rep. William Cahill (R-Collingswood) and three state senators: Frank X. McDermott (R-Westfield), the senate president; Harry Sears (R-Mountain Lakes); and William Ozzard (R-Somerville), a former senate president.

In that contest, the two South Jersey candidates won a combined 76% of the vote.  Sandman won Passaic, Middlesex, Hunterdon and Sussex, along with Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland.  Ozzard won Somerset and wrestled Sandman to a 390-vote win in Warren, while Sears took Morris and McDermott carried Union.    Cahill won the primary by 13,103 votes, 39%-36%, over Sandman; he won the general election against Democrat Robert Meyner, a former two-term governor.

In 1973, Cahill became the first and still only sitting New Jersey governor to lose renomination in a primary election.  Sandman defeated him by seventeen percentage points, 57.5%-40.6%, and a plurality of 61,623 votes.  Cahill won Essex, Hudson, Somerset, Middlesex, Mercer and Union (by 33 votes) and Sandman carried the rest.

Sandman lost the general election against Democrat Brendan Byrne, a former prosecutor and judge, in a landslide.  Byrne defeated him by 738,378 votes, 67%-32%, and Sandman carried only Cape May.    Nixon had fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in the Saturday Night Massacre just weeks before the election.  In addition to Sandman’s defeat, Republicans lost control of both houses of the legislature; the GOP was left with 10 senate seats and 14 in the Assembly.

Gov. Thomas Kean nominated Sandman to serve as a Superior Court Judge in 1984.  Sandman died in 1985 of a stroke at age 63.

A collector of elephants, Weese Sandman campaigned extensively up and down New Jersey, frequently making day trips from her home in Erma in Lower Township.

She is survived by her six children, 19 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

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