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Former State Sen. Frank X. Herbert (FILE PHOTO)

The time a write-in campaign worked

Democrats averted a disaster by turning to Cardinale’s predecessor

By David Wildstein, April 14 2021 12:01 am

Write-in campaigns are largely uphill, but not impossible under special circumstances. 

In 1994, Democrats in New Jersey’s 11th district had a critical electoral crisis. 

Their candidate for Congress against Republican Rep. Dean Gallo (R-Parsippany) was supposed to be Daniel Tauriello, but he failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot.

That left John Kucek, a Holocaust revisionist and follower of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Democrats turned to a former state senator from Bergen County who was living in Sparta at the time to help them with a Hail Mary rescue operation.

Frank X. Herbert had been a popular vote-getter in the 1970s as a Bergen County freeholder and state senator.  He lost his 39th district seat to Republican Gerald Cardinale in 1981.

Herbert mounted a write-in campaign to win the Democratic primary against Kucek.

He won in a landslide, 5,971 to 2,493, an incredible 71% victory at a time when 11th district Democrats had practically nothing going for them organizationally.

Gallo quit the race in August, toward the end of his fight with prostate cancer – he died the day before the general election — and Herbert wound up becoming the first Democrat to run against Rodney Frelinghuysen.  He lost by a 71%-28% margin in a district that would remain in Republican hands for the next 24 years.

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