Former Union County Democratic Chair Charlotte DeFilippo of Hillside has died.
A powerhouse in Union County politics, Ms DeFilippo served as chair of the county from 1995 to 2013.
She was a political force who ran much of Union out of her home in Hillside, where she also served as the local Democratic Party chair.
“Chairman DeFilippo was a legendary, tremendously effective leader,” said current Hillside Democratic Chairman Anthony Salters. “Her overall body of work made Union County a better place to live. My prayers are with her family at this time.”
Ms Defillipo, who was 73 at the time of her death, had also served as the longtime executive director of the Union County Improvement Authority. She was also a former county freeholder and clerk.
“It’s a tough week for political types I’ve known,” said veteran Democratic Party operative Pat Politano. “Jamie [Fox], Michelle Russo, and now Charlotte. Particularly difficult for Union County with Jamie and Charlotte. These were people who shaped the political and governmental landscape, largely behind the scenes, for more than two decades.”
Politano added, “When she was loyal to you, she was loyal no matter what. When there was movement in the state to shift away from Jim McGreevey for governor, there was this idea among the chairs that if we’re not careful, [then Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman] John Lynch will be the last man standing with McGreevey, and Charlotte said, ‘I’ll be the last man standing with McGreevey.'”
She ran the county from her dining room table, attentive to the nuts and bolts politics few people have patience for, a chain-smoking boss giving new meaning to the term smoke-filled room. Union Democrats got wiped out in the early 1990s Jim Florio backlash and Ms DeFilippo led the effort to rebuild them into a locked up, total control Democratic stronghold.
She was one of New Jersey politics’ real characters. Despite her standing as one of the leading establishment party figures of her era, she took pains to talk about her 1960s anti-establishment Vietnam era past.
“I’m a rabble rousing progressive,” she once told InsiderNJ, as she simultaneously made the case for the government buildings whose construction she oversaw.
Her cat wore a Harley Davidson biker collar.
She was also one of the most expressive people in either party with the English language, exclaiming can’t-forget phrases just a few blocks away from the grave of Red Badge of Courage author Stephen Crane.
“They’re a bunch of complainers, whiners and jumper upper downers,” she once told InsiderNJ in reference to some of her local detractors, always loving the sport of politics.
“Union County lost a giant,” said state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20). “She ruled the roost for a couple of decades, and she always stood on principle and loyalty, which is something that is scare these days.”