From the time he decided to embark upon his campaign for United States Senator, one of Tom Kean’s greatest fears has been a head-to-head conservative challenge in the Republican primary. Kean has sought to build relationships with conservative leaders in an effort to clear the primary field, and it looked like his efforts paid off when potential conservative rivals — Assemblymen Joseph Pennacchio and Michael Doherty, and former congressional candidate William Spadea — decided early that they would not run. But with just two weeks to go before the filing deadline, a conservative leader from Bergen County, banker John Ginty, is circulating petitions to run for the Senate. Ginty, who has lost two primary challenges to incumbent GOP Assemblymen in the 40th district, is a former Navy submarine officer and onetime Ridgewood Republican Club President (the same post from which Marge Roukema launched a 22-year congressional career). The genesis of his campaign is an intra-party battle in Bergen, where Kean has not yet accepted the GOP organization line in an attempt to avoid taking sides in a heated primary for County Executive, and for Republican County Chairman. Some strategists say that a primary might be good for the 37-year-old State Senator, enabling him to get some practice before he faces incumbent Robert Menendez, a seasoned veteran of hard-fought political battles. Conservative challenges in New Jersey GOP primaries have often been more symbolic than anything else, although there have been some huge successes: conservatives upset a moderate-to-liberal Republican Governor in 1973 and U.S. Senator in 1978, and won the 2001 gubernatorial primary. There is some empirical evidence suggesting that the most conservative faction of the conservative wing of the New Jersey Republicans represents about 18% of the vote: in 1996, months after Bob Dole (not exactly a moderate) had already clinched the GOP presidential nomination, 18% of New Jersey’s GOP primary voters cast their ballots for either Pat Buchanan or Alan Keyes. Two years earlier, Brian Kennedy, a former State Senator from Monmouth County, ran to the right of pro-life Assembly Speaker Garabed “Chuck” Haytaian in the GOP U.S. Senate primary; with no money or organization support, he captured 33% of the vote. Way back in 1972, six years before Jeff Bell defeated Senator Clifford Case in the primary, James Walter Ralph, an unknown Bergen County physician, again with no money or organization support, captured 25% of the vote against Case.