By MAX PIZARRO
Sen. Thomas H. Kean, Jr. acknowledges his likely opponent in the general election has some executive experience, albeit in a weak form of government, he hastens to add.
Gina Genovese admits Kean may have some experience in Trenton, but says the young and ambitious senator continues to have his focus beyond the seat he now occupies.
Genovese, a township committeewoman in Long Hill and former mayor, this week won the official backing of the Union County Democratic organization.
She still doesn’t have Assembly candidates to run with her in this historically Republican district — which includes parts of Union, Somerset, Morris and Essex County — where members of her party usually end up as Republican road-kill.
Though generally regarded as untouchable in his home district, Kean is shaking off the effects of a statewide loss last year to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
Kean said he was proud of his campaign for U.S. Senate and said he came closer to victory than any other Republican Senate candidate contending in a blue state.
New Jersey Republicans are mixed in their review of his brawl with Menendez. “A lot of Republicans didn’t vote for him,” said former State. Sen. Leanna Y. Brown, who describes herself as a Kean fan.
In his own district, Kean’s U.S. Senate bid fell short of his usual margins. He won the 21st district by 5,684 votes last year — a 54%-46% margin over Menendez. He won 69% in his 2003 legislative race — a 17,588 plurality.
Westfield, his hometown, gave him a 396-vote margin over Menendez. Four years ago, he won the town by 2,275 votes.
“That’s a township committee form of government in Long Hill,” the senator said. “That means, of course, she was selected by her fellow committee members, not elected to be mayor by the people.”
The Democrat says she agrees with the senator’s assessment of Long Hill’s form of government, but noted that she was in the minority party when the committee picked her to be mayor.
“There were three Republicans and two Democrats, and I was the only female,” Genovese said. “I became the first Democrat woman to be elected mayor in the history of Long Hill Township.”
She said Kean’s been missing in action these last three years, and suggested it would be more of the same if 21st district voters re-elect him.
“If he’s going to run for Lautenberg’s seat next year, he’s going to be missing again,” Genovese said.