DiFrancesco, Bennett: Gov’s attempt to depose Kean Jr. ill-advised

ATLANTIC CITY – Gov. Chris Christie made a rare tactical mistake getting involved in the failed attempt to depose Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., former N.J. governors agreed Wednesday.

“At least we know that the Republicans are independent thinkers,’’ said Donald DiFrancesco in a lighthearted reference to those who believe that Christie has the GOP legislators in lock-down mode.

After Kean’s pre-election boast of winning enough Senate seats to allow him to become Senate president flopped, Christie backed Sen. Kevin O’Toole as a replacement for Minority Leader, but Kean worked the phones and garnered enough backing to withstand the governor’s stare-down.

That was an unusual public show of independence by the GOP caucus, DiFranceso said.

“It fails, generally, when a governor tries to involve themselves in a party’s choice of leadership,’’ he told an audience of hundreds at the N.J. League of Municipalities conference here.

He said that typically post-election many phone calls are made, just not usually by the governor.

And he went further: If Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney’s strategy was to have Kean Jr. deposed, it failed.

“Sweeney’s strategy played nicely into the hands of Tom Kean … if it was a strategy if was not an effective thing.’’

Another GOP-ex governor, John Bennett, echoed that.

“You count,’’ he said. “If there are 16 Republicans, you count to nine, and if you have nine (votes) you go in for a change, and if you don’t, you don’t get in the game.’’

DiFrancesco, Bennett: Gov’s attempt to depose Kean Jr. ill-advised