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Thomas J. Deverin (July 7, 1921 – December 23, 2010) was an American Democratic Party politician who served 11 terms in the New Jersey General Assembly, from 1970 to 1992, where he represented the 21st Legislative District until 1982, when redistricting following the 1990 United States Census relocated him to the 20th District.[1] Entering his unsuccessful bid to run in the 19th Legislative District (New Jersey), Deverin's 22 years in office made him the most senior member in the Assembly.[2]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey in 1921, Deverin attended Saint Mary's High School there and served in the United States Navy during World War II.[3] A longtime Mayor of Carteret, New Jersey, Deverin lived a few blocks away from a young Jim McGreevey and served as an early political mentor to the future Governor of New Jersey.[4]

In 1977, the Assembly considered a bill introduced by Deverin that would require teachers in all of the state's public schools to begin the day with a "brief period of silent meditation" by all students. The legislation indicated that this meditative period "is not intended to be, and shall not be conducted as a religious service or exercise".[5] The meditation bill was modeled after similar legislation passed in Massachusetts that had been challenged as unconstitutional by the American Civil Liberties Union and had been upheld in 1976 by a United States district court. Deverin insisted that there was "no forced religious connotation" to his proposal, though both opponents and supporters cited by The New York Times viewed it as a back-door means of re-instituting school prayer.[6]

After five terms in the 20th District, Deverin was relocated to the 19th District in 1991, with redistricting following the 1990 Census tending to favor Republicans.[7] A spot opened on the Democratic ticket in the 19th District when freshman Jim McGreevey chose to run for mayor of Woodbridge Township. The 19th District was described by The New York Times as a "blue-collar and traditionally rock-solid Democratic district", but Republican efforts in the district targeted Deverin and the 19th's incumbent State Senator Laurence S. Weiss, including a full-page advertisement that read "For Two Years, Florio, Weiss & Deverin Have Been Laughing All The Way To The Bank. On Nov. 5th You Can Wipe The Smile Off Their Faces."[2] Deverin and running mate Jay Ziznewski were swept aside by Stephen A. Mikulak and Ernest L. Oros in the Republican landslide following voter disfavor with Florio's $2.8 billion tax hike. In his 22 years in office, Deverin said that he had seen political shifts before in the Legislature "but not quite to this extent".[8] Deverin called the lame duck session following his election loss, much of which focused on repealing the tax increase that led to his defeat, one of the most strenuous of his time in the Assembly, saying "I never thought I'd say it, but I'll be glad to see Tuesday come around" when he would be leaving office.[9]

Deverin died at the age of 89 on December 23, 2010.[3]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Deverin, Thomas J., OurCampaigns.com. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gray, Jerry. "Tax Increase Turns a Once-Confident New Jersey Senator Nervous", The New York Times, November 1, 1991. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Malwitz, Rick. "Longtime Carteret political figure Deverin dies at age 89", The Daily Journal (New Jersey), December 27, 2010. Accessed February 28, 2011. "State Assemblyman Thomas Deverin of Carteret (right) takes the oath of office in 1979, administered by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Hughes. Deverin, who was also a former mayor of the borough, died Dec. 23 at the age of 89."
  4. Goodnough, Abby. "THE 1997 ELECTIONS: PROFILE -- Politics as Lifelong Passion; McGreevey of New Jersey Is a Relentless Competitor", The New York Times, October 30, 1997. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  5. Waldron, Martin. "Bill Would Require a 'Meditation' Period in Schools", The New York Times, February 14, 1977. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  6. Sullivan, Joseph F. "SCHOOL MEDITATION ADVANCES IN TRENTON; Assembly Passes a Bill to Require Brief Period at Start of Day School-Meditation and Abortion Measures Approved by Assembly", The New York Times, February 18, 1977. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  7. Sullivan, Joseph F. "Redistricting Worries Democrats", The New York Times, April 7, 1991. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  8. Gray, Jerry. "A Legislature With a Less Urban Tone", The New York Times, November 14, 1991. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  9. Gray, Jerry. "THE REGION; Democrats Fail to Kill the Tax Rise That Doomed Them", The New York Times, January 12, 1992. Accessed July 15, 2010.

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