I am one of dozens, probably hundreds, of Republican operatives or elected officials who owe their careers to Bob Franks, and for whom today is one of the saddest days of our lives.
In politics, Bob was a transitional figure — because of his impeccable instincts and gut for politics he was as good as any “old-school” political boss, but his fascination with new technology, cutting edge techniques, and the “science” of political strategic decision-making placed him as the best of the new generation political thinkers and strategists.
As politics and campaigns became more sophisticated and technology- driven, Bob Franks not only rode this wave, but helped to create it.
He taught me and others to view political problems through a completely scientific lens – that there are always strategic planning principles that should be followed in solving any political challenge, taking emotion and ideology out of the mix. This science of politics was not taught by any other leader – it is a legacy he leaves with the dozens of his students, me included, who were lucky enough to learn it from him.
But in another respect his foot was firmly in the “old school” ways of politics — he easily made friends with and respected his political opponents in the Democratic Party. A tough campaigner, he never partook of slash and burn personal attacks, and his policy criticisms were always carefully thought-out, and measured in both tone and substance.
In government, he always sought positive solutions to problems, and always lived by a maxim he often repeated to me, which he credited to his mentor and hero, Governor Tom Kean – “good government is the best politics.”
As a person, there are few in politics or government who had a bigger heart. While I was a young staffer on his campaign and legislative staffs, he was genuinely interested in my personal life, including my new wife Cheryl and young children. His genuine joy at the births of our now college-age children Christopher and Nicole remains a warm memory even today. The sincere interest he held for all the people who worked for him, and the pride he always felt at the professional success all of us have enjoyed after we moved on to other jobs (or the solace he always offered if we had a set-back), are gifts that few in any profession will ever experience.
It was Bob’s huge heart most of all that earned him the life-long loyalty of everyone that ever worked for him.
Our hearts are broken by the stunning loss of this great man, and our prayers and thoughts are with Fran and their 3 beautiful children. Thank you God for giving New Jersey a principled, warm-hearted, and brilliant leader, whose legacy will continue to inspire a new generation of people in public service and politics. Thank you God for giving me the gift of his friendship. God Bless you Bob.