Junior’s fear factor

Thomas Kean, Jr., a two-term State Senator and son of a popular former Governor, is scared to death of John Ginty, a former Republican Club President who has lost two primary bids for State Assemblyman. It is Kean’s fear of a conservative primary challenger — and concerns by some campaign advisors that he is not yet “statewide-ready” — that led to his decision last week to run on the Bergen County Republican Organization line. Kean passed on the option of staying out of the Bergen GOP civil war entirely by running alone in a separate column. But Ginty, who won 21% of the vote at the Middlesex County Republican Convention last Saturday (a remarkably strong showing for an undeclared candidate with no money or campaign staff), remains in the race — as long as he can get enough signatures to gain a ballot position. And Kean must now deal with several disgruntled Republicans backing Kathleen Donovan for County Executive who are unhappy that he threw their ticket under the bus (especially when he indicated that would not happen) and caved in to an ultimatum from Bergen County Republican Chairman Guy Talarico. (As one GOP party leader put it: “Apparently Junior does respond to ultimatums.”) Within the Kean campaign, there was considerabe division and considerable indecisiveness over how to handle the Bergen problem — even former Governor Thomas Kean was on at least once conference call as the Kean team sought a solution. This was in sharp contrast to his opponent, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who took sides in an intra-party controversy over the selection of candidates for Passaic County Freeholder. Kean is now on a line with the BCRO candidate for County Executive, Todd Caliguire, and some Republicans are not buying his spin that running with the BCRO slate does not constitute an endorsement of the BCRO-backed candidates. Kean, sources say, did not call Donovan or her running mate, incumbent Freeholder Elizabeth Randall, to inform them of his decision until several hours after his campaign made their announcement.

Junior’s fear factor