If Steve Lonegan wins election as Governor, he might be the first conservative Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey since Albert Hawkes ousted incumbent William Smathers in the 1942 U.S. Senate race. Hawkes served as President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before running for the Senate – his first bid for public office.
Since then, Republican statewide winners have been considered moderates: Governors Alfred Driscoll, William Cahill, Thomas Kean and Christine Todd Whitman; and U.S. Senators Robert Hendrickson, Alexander Smith, and Clifford Case. Other Republicans widely viewed as conservatives, including Charles Sandman, Jeffrey Bell, and Bret Schundler, were unsuccessful general election candidates.
One more factoid on New Jersey conservatives: Charles Edison, the son of the inventor and the U.S. Secretary of the Navy under President Franklin Roosevelt, was elected Governor as a Democrat in 1940. Edison, who moved to Manhattan after he left office, split with President Harry Truman over the firing of General Douglas McArthur. According to a biographer, Edison became “disturbed by the growth of federal power under both Democratic and Republican presidents, and opposed the foreign policies of both major parties.” In 1963, he officially became a member of the Conservative Party of New York.