Three out of four times, the caretaker’s party loses

New Jersey has had four United States Senate vacancies over the last 75 years; the Governor has appointed a caretaker three times and a candidate who ran again once. Each time the Governor named a caretaker, the Governor’s party lost the seat, but the one time the Governor appointed a Senator who stood for election, that candidate won. The last vacancy was in 1982, when Democrat Harrison Williams resigned following his Abscam conviction. The seat had been viewed as open since his 1982 indictment, and four Republicans were looking at the race: Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, Congressman James Courter, ’78 Senate candidate Jeffrey Bell, and former Republican State Chairman/’76 Senate candidate David Norcross. Republican Governor Thomas Kean, in office for three months, decided (after 31 days of thoughtful consideration) to appoint a caretaker, Nicholas Brady, an old friend who ran Dillon Reed, a Wall Street investment bank. Fenwick won the nomination over Bell and then lost to Democrat Frank Lautenberg. After the death of Republican Senator Warren Barbour in 1943, Democratic Governor Charles Edison appointed a caretaker, Arthur Walsh, a 47-year-old Port Authority Commissioner who was the Assistant Director of the Federal Housing Administration in the Roosevelt administration. Walsh was a friend of the Governor; when he was nineteen, he worked as a violinist for the Governor’s father, Thomas Edison. Democrats nominated Congressman Elmer Wene, a chicken farmer from Cumberland County, who lost to Republican Alexander Smith, the Executive Secretary of Princeton University, by a 50%-49% margin. When A. Harry Moore was elected Governor in 1937, he appointed a close friend, John Milton, a Jersey City lawyer and supporter of Mayor Frank Hague, to replace him. Republicans ran Barbour, who had lost his Senate seat in 1936; he defeated State Senator William Ely of Bergen County by a 53%-46% margin. Barbour first went to the Senate in 1931 when Republican Governor Morgan Larson appointed him following the death of Republican Senator Dwight Morrow (who died after just seven months in office). A businessman and former Mayor of Rumson — and a onetime amateur U.S. heavyweight boxing champion — Barbour ran for the seat in a 1932 special election and defeated Democratic Congressman Percy Stewart by a 50%-49% margin.

Three out of four times, the caretaker’s party loses