VINELAND — Democrat Matt Milam stepped down Thursday night from the 1st Legislative District Assembly seat he has held since 2008 and was replaced by an Iraq war hero from Cape May County.

Milam told party members gathered at the Cosmopolitan restaurant that he is giving up the position to help grow his business, Foundry Service Corporation, a cargo and freight company based in this city.

Milam was immediately replaced by Robert Andrzejczak, a former U.S. Army sergeant who lost a leg in a grenade attack in Iraq in January 2009. Andrzejczak was awarded the good conduct medal, bronze star, purple heart and other decorations for his service in Iraq, and his struggle to regain the ability to walk was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

“I fought for my country,” said Andrzejczak, a 26-year resident of Middle Township who works at the fish market at the Lobster House restaurant in Cape May. “I would like to fight for this district just like I fought for my country.”

The 1st Legislative District includes Cape May County and parts of Cumberland and Atlantic counties. The other members of the delegation include state Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Nelson Albano

Andrzejczak’s assumption of Milam’s seat was approved by voice acclamation vote of Democratic Party leaders from Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic counties. He will fill the remainder of Milam’s term, which runs through December.

The entire Assembly is up for election this year.

“Bob is a real American hero,” said Jeff Van Drew. “He risked life and limb for our country. I am honored to have him as part of our team. No one is more deserving or will work harder than Bob.”

“Bob is going to make an amazing assemblyman,” Albano said.

However, Cape May County Republican leader Mike Donohue and Cumberland County Republican leader Bob Greco said in a statement that the move bodes well for Republicans in November.

Removing a well-known Democrat like Milam from the legislative race, coupled with Gov. Chris Christie at the top of the Republican ticket, makes the 1st Legislative District the Republican Party’s “most prime pick-up opportunity in the state.”

“The once formidable Van Drew team is officially no more,” Donohue and Greco said.

Milam, 51, is married and has two children.

He most recently chaired the Assembly’s Tourism and the Arts Committee. He was vice chairman of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He also served on the lower house’s Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

Some of the bills sponsored by Milam dealt with requiring public officials convicted of crimes of the fourth degree or higher to forfeit their office, and having state reports and publications posted on the Internet. He also sought to revamp rules dealing with animal cruelty.

Milam has been a member of the Cumberland County Economic Development Board since 2005.

Milam graduated from Cumberland County, where he majored in political science.

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