One take on a war story

A handful of people actively involved in Hudson County and Statehouse politics in the mid 1980’s argue strongly that the success of Robert Menendez’s political career was a result of bad staff work by a political operative who worked for then-Governor Thomas Kean. Republicans had made huge gains in Hudson County in the early 1980’s, when Ronald Reagan formally kicked off his campaign against Jimmy Carter in Jersey City and won 45% in the county. Reagan carried Hudson with ease in 1984, helping the GOP pick up two Freeholder seats. When Kean won a huge (65%) victory in Hudson the following year, Republicans won four Assembly seats. Meanwhile, Democratic State Senators William Vincent Musto (the Mayor of Union City) and David Friedland had gone to prison. Kean and the state GOP decided to put some effort and money into Hudson for the May 1986 non-partisan municipal elections, and dispatched a top Kean staffer, Andrew Consovoy, to run the show there. In Union City, the GOP backed an anti-Musto alliance ticket that included Republican Assemblyman Ronald Dario, Republican Manny Alcober, Democrat Bruce Walter, Independent-turned-Democrat-turned Republican Charles Velli, and Menendez, a former Musto aide who ran against him unsuccessfully in 1982. Republicans ran the campaign and raised the money with an understanding that if the slate won, Dario would be the Mayor. All five won, and the heroic Consovoy headed back to Trenton — while Menendez and Walter convinced Alcober to vote for Menendez for Mayor; Alcober reportedly insists that no one ever asked him to anyone else. Dario showed up at the reorganization meeting on July 1 expecting to become Mayor and was shocked by Menendez’s victory. Kean, Consovoy and the GOP didn’t go back to Hudson that fall; their candidate for Congress, an young Cuban American named Albio Sires, was beaten badly in his campaign for Congress agains incumbent Frank Guarini. In 1987, Republicans lost their two Freeholders and their four Assemblymen; one of the freshman Democrats elected to the Legislature that year was Bob Menendez.

One take on a war story