New Jersey has no shortage of respected political families over the years. Here is a partial listing:
Stephen N. Adubato, Sr. (1932-2020) was among the most powerful political leaders of his generation. He founded the North Ward Educational and Cultural Center, from which he ran a substantial political machine. His son, Dr. Steve Adubato, Jr., served as an Assemblyman from Essex County and is an Emmy Award-winning TV personality and leadership expert. His late brother, Michael F. Adubato, served in the State Assembly for eighteen years.
Anthony R. Bucco (1938-2019) served in the New Jersey State Senate from 1998 until his death in 2019. He previously served as a Boonton Alderman and Mayor, as a Morris County Freeholder, and in the State Assembly. His son, Anthony M. Bucco, spent five terms in the State Assembly before winning his father’s State Senate seat in 2019.
Brendan T. Byrne (1924-2018) served as Governor of New Jersey from 1974 to 1982. After serving as Executive Secretary (now Chief of Staff) to Gov. Robert Meyner, he was the Essex County Prosecutor, President of the Essex County Board of Public Utilities, and a Superior Court Judge. His son, Tom Byrne, is a former New Jersey Democratic State Chairman.
Gerald Calabrese (1925-2015) was the longest-serving mayor in New Jersey history. The former professional basketball player was the mayor for 50 years, from 1965 until his death in 2015. He served as a Bergen County Freeholder and as Bergen County Democratic Chairman. His son, Thomas, succeeded him as mayor. His grandson, Clinton, has represented the 36th district in the State Assembly since 2018.
Clifford P. Case (1904-1982) served as a Rahway Councilman, Assemblyman, and Congressman before his election to the United States Senate in 1954. He served in the Senate for 24 years. His grandson, Matthew Holt, served as a Hunterdon County Commissioner from 2006 until his resignation earlier this year.
Ledyard Blair Clark (1917-2000) was a former CBS News Vice president who managed Eugene McCarthy’s campaign for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. His stepson, Tom Malinowski, represents New Jersey’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Clark’s sister, Anne Martindell, was a New Jersey State Senator and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand. His father, William Clark, was a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey. Blair Clark’s grandfather was a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and U.S. Secretary of War under President Ulysses Grant. His great-grandfather also represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate and was President Abraham Lincoln’s U.S. Secretary of War.
Leonard T. Connors, Jr. (1929-2016) served as a State Senator from 1982 to 2008, and as Mayor of Surf City from 1966 to 2015. He also served as an Ocean County Freeholder from 1977 to 1982. His son, Christopher Connors, won his father’s State Senate seat in 2007 and is now serving his fifth term. Prior to his election to the Senate, Chris Connors served as a Lacey Township Committeeman and Mayor, and spent eighteen years in the New Jersey State Assembly.
John F. Cryan (1929-2005) served in the State Assembly from 1966 to 1968 and won his first of three terms as Essex County Sheriff in 1970. His son, Joseph Cryan, is serving his second term as a State Senator from the Union County-based 20th district. He won a State Assembly seat seven times, served as Majority Leader from 2010 to 2012, as Democratic State Chairman from 2006 to 2010, and was the Union County Sheriff from 2015 to 2018.
Raymond M. Durkin (1936-2014) served as Essex County Democratic Chairman for twelve years and as New Jersey Democratic State Chairman from 1985 to 1989. His son, Christopher, has been the Essex County Clerk since 2006.
Joseph V. Egan (Born 1938) has represented the 17th district in the New Jersey State Assembly since 2002. His son, Kevin, is a New Brunswick City Councilman.
Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, Jr. (1916-2011) was a congressman from New Jersey from 1953 to 1975 His son, Rodney, represented New Jersey’s 11th district in Congress from 1995 to 2019.
Multiple Frelinghuysen family members have held high office, including four U.S. Senators (beginning in 1793), two U.S. Secretaries of State, and a Whig Party candidate for Vice President. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s great-great-great-grandfather founded the Ballantine Brewery, his great-great-grandfather was the founder of Proctor & Gamble and his great-grandfather founded the American Sugar Refining Company.
John J. Giblin (1909-1975) served as an Essex County Freeholder in the 1950s and as a State Senator in the 1960s. He was the business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68 from 1948 until his death and served as chairman of the IUOE in Washington.
His son, Thomas P. Giblin, is one of the most consequential New Jersey political leaders of his generation. After nearly flipping a State Assembly seat in 1973 at age 26, he was elected to the Essex County Board of Freeholders in 1977 and served there again from 1982 to 1990. He served as Essex County Surrogate, Essex County Democratic Chairman, and New Jersey Democratic State Chairman. He has represented the 34th district in the State Assembly since 2006. Another son, the late Vincent Giblin, held top positions at IUOE.
Some of Tom Giblin’s children have followed in the family tradition of public service: Ted is a Verona councilman, Patrick is a former Cranford mayor, and Noreen is the director of the authorities unit in Gov. Phil Murphy’s office.
Rush D. Holt, Sr. (1905-1955) served as a United States Senator from West Virginia from 1935 to 1941; he was elected at age 29 and delayed taking office until his 30th, three months after other freshman senators too office. His son, Rush D. Holt, Jr., was a congressman from New Jersey from 1999 to 2015.
Richard J. Hughes (1909-1992) served as Governor of New Jersey from 1962 to 1970 and as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1973 to 1979. He is a former Mercer County Democratic Chairman and Superior Court Judge and was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in 1938.
Several of his sons have played a leading role in New Jersey politics. Brian Hughes has served as the Mercer County Executive since 2004. Michael Murphy is a former Morris County Prosecutor who sought the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1997. John Hughes served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of New Jersey for eighteen years.
William J. Hughes (1932-2019) represented New Jersey’s 2nd district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 until his retirement in 1995. President Bill Clinton later nominated him as th U.S. Ambassador to Panama. His son, William J. Hughes, Jr., is a former federal prosecutor who came within 441 votes of ousting State Sen. James Cafiero in 2001. He later lost a bid for his father’s old seat to Rep. Frank LoBiondo in 2014.
Sharpe James (Born 1936) served as Mayor of Newark from 1986 until 2006. He also served on the Newark City Council from 1970 to 1986, and as a New Jersey State Senator from 1999 to 2008. His son, John Sharpe James, represented Newark’s South Ward on the City Council.
LeRoy J. Jones, Sr. (1935-2015) was a Democratic leader who was nominated to the New Jersey State Parole Board by Gov. Brendan Byrne in 1980. His son, LeRoy Jones, Jr., a former Essex County Freeholder and Assemblyman, is the Essex County Democratic Chairman and the New Jersey Democratic State Chairman.
Thomas H. Kean (Born 1935) served as Governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990. He won an Essex County-based State Assembly seat in 1967 and served as Speaker, Majority Leader and Minority Leader during his ten years in the legislature. He later served as President of Drew University and as chairman of the 9/11 Commission.
His son, Thomas H. Kean, Jr., served in the State Assembly from 2001 to 2003 and as a State Senator from 2003 to 2022. He was the longest-serving Senate Minority Leader in state history. Kean came within one percentage point of winning a seat in Congress in 2000 and is the Republican nominee for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district this year.
Robert W. Kean (1893-1980), the former governor’s father, represented New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1939 to 1959. His father, Hamilton Fish Kean (1862-1941), was a United States Senator from New Jersey from 1929 to 1935. Hamilton Kean’s older brother, John, also represented New Jersey in the House and Senate, and his great-grandfather was a delegate to the Continental Congress from South Carolina.
William F. Kelly (1911-1989) represented Hudson County in the New Jersey State Senate from 1958 to 1974 and was a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1969. He also served in Gov. Robert Meyner’s cabinet as president of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission in the 1950s ad was the Hudson County Democratic Chairman from 1971 to 1973. Kelly’s granddaughter, DeAnne DeFuccio, was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly in a 2021 election after serving as an Upper Saddle River Councilwoman.
Wesley L. Lance (1908-2007) served as Senate President in 1959. A Hunterdon County Republican, he served in the State Assembly from 1938 to 1942, and in the State Senate from 1942 to 1943, when he resigned to join in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He returned to the Senate in 1954 and served an additional eight years. Lance was a delegate to the New Jersey State Constitutional Conventions of 1947 and 1966.
His son, Leonard Lance, served as an assistant counsel to Gov. Thomas Kean, as an assemblyman from 1991 to 2002, as a state senator from 2002 to 2009, and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2009 to 2019.
Robert E. Littell (1936-2014) spent four decades in the New Jersey Legislature. He was elected to the State Assembly in 1967 and to the Senate in a 1990 special election. His daughter, Allison Littell McHose, served as an assemblywoman from 2003 to 2015. His father, Alfred Littell, was a longtime senator from Sussex County and was Senate President in 1951. He also served in the State Assembly and as a Sussex County Freeholder and Franklin mayor. Littell’s grandfather, Watson, was a Franklin councilman.
Robert Menendez (Born 1954) is the senior United States Senator from New Jersey and the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He served as Union City Mayor, Assemblyman, State Senator and Congressman before moving to the U.S. Senate in 2006. His son, Robert J. Menendez, is a Commissioner of the Port Authority of New Yorl and New Jersey, and the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Representatives in New Jersey’s 8th district.
John W. Murphy (1877-1948) served as an Alderman in Newton, Massachusetts from 1910 to 1918. His grandson, Phil, is serving his second term as Governor of New Jersey.
George E. Norcross (1928-1998) served as president of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Union for sixteen years. He received one vote for the Democratic nomination for Vice President at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.
Three of his sons are powerful players in New Jersey politics: George E. Norcross III has been a Democratic powerbroker since the 1980s; Donald Norcross is a congressman; and Phil Norcross is a partner at a major South Jersey law firm.
Robert O’Toole (Born 1934) served three terms as the Mayor of Cedar Grove and was elected to the Township Council in 2003, 2007 and 2011. His son, Kevin, preceded his father in public office. He was elected to the Cedar Grove Township Council in 1989 and became mayor for the first of three times in 1990. Kevin O’Toole was elected to the State Assembly six times and served in the State Senate in 2001 and from 2008 until 2017 when he resigned to become chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
William J. Pascrell, Jr. (Born 1937) was first elected to Congress in 1996 after serving as an Assemblyman, Paterson Mayor and Passaic County Democratic Chairman. His son, William J. Pascrell III, is a former Passaic County Counsel and is a partner at Princeton Public Affairs, a leading Trenton lobbying firm.
Donald M. Payne (1934-2012) represented New Jersey’s 10th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1989 until his death in 2012, the first Black congressman in state history. He was elected to his first of three terms as an Essex County Freeholder in 1972 and was a two-term Newark City Councilman. His son, Donald M. Payne, Jr., served as a freeholder and Newark City Councilman before winning his father’s congressional seat in a 2012 special election.
Ronald L. Rice (Born 1945) has represented the Essex County-based 28th district in the State Senate since he won a 1986 special election and is the longest-serving Black legislator in New Jersey history. He served on the Newark City Council from 1982 to 1998. His son, Ronald C. Rice, is a former Newark City Councilman.
Gerald Scharfenberger (Born 1958) served as Mayor of Middletown and as a Monmouth County Freeholder before his election to the State Assembly in 2019. His son, Dan, is a top Republican political operative who ran the Senate GOP campaign committee in 2021. He is presently the campaign manager for Tom Kean, Jr. for Congress. Gerald Scharfenberger’s son-in-law, Tony Perry, is the Mayor of Middletown.
John A. Schepisi (Born 1944) is a former Bergen County Republican Chairman. His daughter, Holly, was elected five times as an assemblywoman from the 39th district and won a special election to the State Senate in 2021.
Frank J. Testa (1921-2002) served as Mayor of Vineland and as a Superior Court Judge. His grandson, Michael Testa, Jr., is a Republican state senator from the 1st legislative district and the Cumberland County GOP chairman.
Webster B. Todd (1899-1989) served two stints as the New Jersey Republican State Chairman and held a top post at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during the Eisenhower Administration. His daughter, Christine Todd Whitman, served as Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, and as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003. His late son, Webster B. Todd, Jr., was an assemblyman from Somerset County in the 1960s.
John S. Watson (1924-1996) became the first Black to serve as a Mercer County Freeholder in 1970 and served in the New Jersey State Assembly from 1982 to 1994. He served as chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. His daughter, Bonnie Watson Coleman, has served as the congresswoman from New Jersey’s 12th district since 2015. She is a former Assembly Majority Leader and Democratic State Chair and served in the legislature from 1998 until her election to Congress.
David Wilentz (1894-1988) was the Attorney General of New Jersey from 1934 to 1944 and the longtime Middlesex County Democratic boss. His son, Robert, served as an Assemblyman from 1966 to 1970 and as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1979 until three weeks before his death in 1996. Another son, Warren, was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 1966, losing to Republican Clifford Case.