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New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean, Jr. , left, and Rep. Tom Malinowski. (Photos: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Ties between Kean, Malinowski families goes back to Lincoln administration

Two notable political families crossed paths during the Civil War

By David Wildstein, July 08 2021 9:42 am

The relationship between the Kean and Malinowski families goes back to the Civil War when two clans were both political allies of Abraham Lincoln.

Col. John Kean, the great-great-grandfather of Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr., was among the founders of the New Jersey Republican Party in 1856.   Simon Cameron, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, was the great-great-grandfather of Rep. Tom Malinowski’s step-father, Blair Clark.

Kean was an insider’s insider.  He was a shareholder of railroads in Camden, Middlesex, Union and Somerset counties, the owner of a bank, and gas and water utility companies.  He owned three water-powered mills on the Elizabeth River.

In the 1860 presidential election, New Jersey backed a favorite son for the Republican nomination, with former U.S. Senator William Dayton receiving 14 votes from New Jersey GOP delegates on the first ballot.

Kean was supposed to deliver New Jersey’s delegates to New York Senator William Seward on he second ballot, but he wound up cutting a deal with Lincoln.

He lost four New Jersey delegates to Lincoln on the second ballot.  On the third ballot, New Jersey gave Lincoln eight votes, with five going to William Seward and just one holding for Dayton.  Lincoln won the nomination on the third ballot.

Five weeks into the Lincoln presidency, the Civil War began.  Kean received a no-bid contract from the War Department to manufacture gun parts for the Union Army.

The Secretary of War who approved the Kean contract was Cameron.  He held the post for less than a year before Lincoln replaced him with Edwin Stanton following allegations of careless management.

The next generation of the two families would intersect later in the 19th century.

John Kean, Col. Kean’s son, represented a Union County-based district in Congress for two non-consecutive terms in the late 1880s.   Donald Cameron, who had served as Ulysses Grant’s Secretary of War, was a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania while John Kean was a congressman from New Jersey.

President Calvin Coolidge nominated Cameron’s grandson, William Clark, to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in 1925.  In those days, Coolidge probably would have sought the consent of the Republican National Committeeman from New Jersey, Hamilton Kean, before making that nomination.  Hamilton Kean, Col. Kean’s son and the great-grandfather of the current Senate Minority Leader, won a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey in 1928.

Malinowski’s step-father, Clark, was the son of Judge Clark.  A former CBS News executive, Clark was press secretary for Averill Harriman’s 1956 presidential campaign and campaign manager for Eugene McCarthy when he challenged Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.

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