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Former President Dwight Eisenhower campaigns for State Sen. Wayne Dumont (R-Phillipsburg), the Republican candidate for Governor of New Jersey in 1965. Ace Alagna collection courtesy of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center, Seton Hall University Libraries, South Orange.

N.J. State Senators more likely to die in office than win election as governor

Of the 68 sitting state senators who ran for another office, just 10 won

By David Wildstein, November 21 2021 2:33 pm

New Jersey State Senators are more likely to die in office than to use the Senate as a springboard to another elected post.  Under the current State Constitution passed in 1947, 68 sitting state senators have asked voters to promote them to a new office, but only fourteen have won, according to an analysis conducted by the New Jersey Globe.

All 23 state senators who have run for governor lost: Malcolm Forbes (1957), Wayne Dumont (1965), Raymond Bateman (1977), James E. McGreevey (1997) and Barbara Buono (2013) won major party nominations but lost the general election — each time to an incumbent; William Schluter ran as an Independent in 2001; and Kenneth Hand (1953), Walter Jones (1961), Charles Sandman (1965), William Kelly (1969), Frank McDermott (1969), William Ozzard (1969), Harry Sears (1969), Ralph DeRose (1973), Raymond Garramone (1977), Frank Dodd (1981), William Hamilton (1981), Joseph Merlino (1981), James Wallwork (1981), John Russo (2005),  Bill Gormley (1989), Gerald Cardinale (1989), and Raymond Lesniak (2017) lost primary elections.  (Dumont lost Republican gubernatorial primaries in 1957 and 1961).   The last time someone went directly from the New Jersey Senate to governor was in 1928.

Edward Crabiel gave up his Senate seat to run in 1973 but withdrew when some party leaders decided to back Brendan Byrne.  In 2001, Donald DiFrancesco dropped his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination while serving as both Senate President and Governor (he had succeeded Christine Todd Whitman earlier that year).  Loretta Weinberg was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor in 2009.

All eight state senators who have run for the United States Senate have lost: Frank Guarini, in 1970 Democratic primary against Harrison Williams; Dick LaRossa (1996), Bill Gormley (2000), Diane Allen (2002), John Matheussen (2002), Thomas Kean, Jr. (2006), Joseph Pennacchio (2008) and Joseph Kyrillos (2012).  Only Kean and Kyrillos made it to a general election ballot.  No sitting state senator had gone directly to the U.S. Senate since 1936.

Fourteen of the 20 sitting  state senators who have run for the U.S. House of Representatives have won: Sandman (1966), John Hunt (1966), Edwin Forsythe (1970), Joseph Maraziti (1972), Matthew Rinaldo (1972), Bernard Dwyer (1980), James Saxton (1984), Frank Pallone (1988), Richard Zimmer (1990), Robert Menendez (1992), John Adler (2008), and Leonard Lance (2008), Donald Norcross (2012) and Jeff Van Drew (2018).  Only Sandman defeated an incumbent.  Nine have lost House bids: Richard Stout (1968), Joseph Kyrillos (1992), Joseph Bubba (1992), Gormley (1994), John Bennett (1996), Cardinale (2002), Nia Gill (2012), Linda Greenstein (2014), and Kean (2020).

Three incumbent state senators unsuccessfully sought office in Bergen County: Matthew Feldman (1986) and Hank McNamara (2002) ran for County Executive, and Harold Hollenbeck (1973) ran for Freeholder.  Three Senators lost bids for Mayor of Newark: Alexander Matturri (1970), Anthony Imperiale (1974), and Ronald Rice (1998); Byron Baer sought the Democratic nomination for mayor of Englewood in 2003.   Frank Graves was elected mayor of Paterson in 1982, a post he had previously held from 1961 to 1966.  In 1983, Frank E. Rodgers gave up his Senate seat to run for Hudson County Clerk.

Upon the resignation of McGreevey in 2004, Senate President Richard Codey was next in the line of succession and became the governor; he held the post for fourteen months but never ran for the office.  Joseph Vitale was elected as the interim mayor of Woodbridge in 2006 and served for sixteen months until the election of his successor was certified.   Paul Sarlo, Brian Stack and Nicholas Sacco – were elected to the State Senate while serving as mayors.

Three senators – William Bate (1973), Kevin O’Toole (2001) and Sean Kean (2011) – went from the upper house to the Assembly after their Senate seats were eliminated in redistricting.  Only O’Toole (2007) returned to the Senate; Bate sought a Senate seat in 1981 but lost to Bubba.

Fifteen Senators have died in office — one more than the number who have won higher office: Raymond Bowkley, Cardinale, John Caufield, Robert Crane, Glenn Cunningham, John Dimon, Walter Foran, Garrett Hagedorn, William Haines, Joseph Hirkala, Christopher Jackman, Wynona Lipman, Edward Sisco, Howard Sharp and James Whelan.  Two others, Byron Baer and Wayne Dumont, resigned for health reasons.

Another five Senators were terminated following their criminal convictions: Angelo Errichetti, David Friedland, John Gregorio, William Vincent Musto, and James Turner.

Editor’s Note: Gormley is counted once, although he has sought higher office three times; Cardinale, who ran twice, is also counted once.  Senators who sought re-election to posts they had held prior to running for the Senate are not counted at all.  These numbers do not include higher offices sought be individuals prior to their election to the New Jersey Senate, such as Bob Smith’s 1992 congressional campaign or Loretta Weinberg’s 1998 bid for Bergen County Executive.  McGreevey and Robert Meyner had been former senators when they were elected governor.

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