Plainfield has a storied political history, but for 84 years has not had a congressperson who hailed from the Queen City.
In honor of this year’s mayor’s contest, we take a look at the political career of a past Plainfield mayor: Percy Hamilton Stewart, notable here because he was the last congressman to use Plainfield as his or her residence and political base of operations.
Since redistricting in 1933, which finished off Stewart’s brief congressional career, no other person has built a congressional run out of the Queen City.
A Yale-educated attorney and a Democrat, Stewart served as mayor of Plainfield from 1912-1913, and as an
appointed member of Congress in what was then New Jersey’s 5th district, from 1931 to 1933. Stewart replaced another Plainfield resident, Republican U.S. Rep. Ernest Robinson Ackerman – a celebrated stamp collector – who died in office.
Ackerman had represented the 5th district out of Plainfield for 13 years: from 1919 until his death.
Rather than run for reelection to the House in a redistricted 5th against Charles Aubrey Eaton, Stewart ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate and died in 1951.
Eaton replaced Stewart in Congress. Having represented the 4th district from 1925 to 1933, Eaton – a noted evangelist – absorbed the new census-ordained 5th district and served from from 1933 to 1953. The late Peter Frelinghuysen – father of U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen – succeeded Eaton in Congress and served from 1953-1975.
Another redistricting shift put Plainfield in the 6th district, where it depended on federal representation from outside its borders, including U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6); and since 2011, the 12th, and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (Hopewell) and sitting U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (Ewing).