TRENTON – When Sen. Tom Kean Jr. held on to his minority leadership position the chamber’s majority party led by Senate President Steve Sweeney reacted positively to the news.
The state’s top Senate lawmaker issued a statement shortly after the GOP caucus voted 10-6 to keep Kean as its leader that declared Sweeney “could ask for no better minority leader than the one whose own strategy cemented their place as the minority party in this state.”
Kean’s ideas for winning elections put Democrats on top, Sweeney insisted, and in a sit down with PolitickerNJ, the Senate president doubled down on his comments.
“I couldn’t be any happier that they picked a guy that doesn’t know how to win,” Sweeney said inside his Statehouse office. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I got lucky and they put him back.”
By the Senate president’s count, he scored three “major victories” this week: Democrats brought back all 24 Dem seats in the Senate in “a tidal wave of a gubernatorial election, he was unanimously re-elected as Senate president and Republicans chose Kean, or, as Sweeney refers to him as of late, “Junior.”
“It’s better for us. I’m thrilled,” he said. “When Tom decided he was going to run against me … and spent all the money he was going to spend against me, I just wish he spent $2 million instead of $1 million because this way my colleagues in some of the competitive races you saw would have had a little bit more of a margin.”
He described the minority leader as a person who’s incapable of “giving him a fight,” which is why he says the notion that any Republicans that supported Kean because they didn’t want to give the impression they were taken marching orders from a Democrat only played in his favor.
“If that’s what the Republicans in the minority party think, great. Thank you,” he said. “It absolutely helped me. Listen, three elections, which ones did he win? Zero.”
As for whether the icy relationship between Kean and Sweeney will spill over to the minority party? No, says Sweeney. There’s plenty of GOP senators he has a good working relationship with and he says nothing has changed with the fact that Kean kept his leadership position.
Will it do anything to harm the friendly relationship Sweeney shares with Gov. Chris Christie?
“No. Listen, you don’t punish someone’s kids if you’re mad at the father,” Sweeney said. “My relationship with the governor is fine and has been fine.”