Murphy’s Choice

John Murphy, whose third place finish in last year’s gubernatorial primary earned him a spot on the short list of Republican candidates for Governor in 2009, must decide in the coming weeks whether he will seek re-election to a fourth term on the Morris County Board of Freeholders. Murphy’s own advisors are split on what he should do: some are telling him to run again, that being an incumbent officeholder gives him added status in a statewide campaign (especially when the highest office he has won is a countywide post); others on the Murphy team tell him he is already a statewide candidate and not running again will allow him to focus his time on fundraising and making contacts across New Jersey. The last sitting GOP elected official to win election as Governor was William Cahill, who was in the middle of his sixth term in Congress when he won in 1969; the last Republican elected officeholder to win a U.S. Senate seat was in 1918, when Governor Walter Edge won. State Senator Thomas Kean, Jr. appears to be the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate this year; he will become the second Kean family member to win a statewide primary as a sitting officeholder: his grandfather, Robert Kean, was a ten-term Congressman when he ran for the Senate in 1958; his father, Thomas Kean, had been out of the State Assembly for four years when he won the 1981 gubernatorial primary, and his great-grandfather, Hamilton Kean, had never held public office before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1928. His great-great-uncle, John Kean, eleven years after losing a bid for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Footnote: Most Keans lose a statewide contest before they win: Kean Sr. lost the 1977 primary, Hamilton Kean lost a 1924 primary, and John Kean lost a race for Governor in 1892. Besides Kean Sr., Douglas Forrester in 2005, Christine Todd Whitman in 1993, James Mitchell in 1961, Malcolm Forbes in 1957, Paul Troast in 1953, and Alfred Driscoll in 1946 were not serving in public office at the time they won Republican gubernatorial primaries: Forrester had not served in public office since he left the West Windsor Council in the early 1980’s; Whitman had left the Somerset County Board of Freeholders to join Governor Kean’s cabinet; Mitchell and Troast had never held elected office (though Mitchell was U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Dwight Eisenhower) before they ran for Governor; Forbes resigned his State Senate seat to run for Governor full time; and Driscoll left the State Senate five years before he ran for Governor. Bret Schunder was the Mayor of Jersey City when he won the 2001 GOP gubernatorial nomination, James Courter (1989) and Charles Sandman (1973) were Congressmen, and Raymond Bateman (1977) and Wayne Dumont (1965). Democrats are different: their last six candidates for Governor were holding elected office at the time of their nomination and election. The last time Democrats nominated an outsider for Governor was in 1973, when Brendan Byrne resigned as a Superior Court Judge to mount his first campaign for office.

Murphy’s Choice