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Former Montclair Mayor Bayard Faulkner

The time Frank Hague tried to take over Montclair

Anti-Hague movement led to election of Bayard Faulkner, father of New Jerseys Optional Municipal Charter Law

By David Wildstein, March 19 2019 8:47 am

Most New Jerseyans involved in local politics are familiar with the Faulkner Act, aka the Optional Municipal Charter Law, which gives municipalities a smorgasbord of different forms of local government to pick from.

Here’s the backstory.

Back in 1934, Jersey City mayor Frank Hague was trying the manifest destiny thing and trying to expand his political organization into Essex County by taking over Montclair.

A group of concerned residents led by 36-year-old Bayard H. Faulkner, tried to stop Hague by changing to a city manager form of government.  The referendum lost by 230 votes.

In 1936, Faulkner headed a slate of five anti-Hague candidates.

In the May non-partisan election, Faulkner’s Citizens Ticket slate won four of the five seats on the Montclair Town Commission.  Faulkner finished second with 7,429 votes, 556 votes ahead of the six-place finisher, incumbent Lincoln Adams.

The fifth seat was won by incumbent James McMahon, who was allied with Hague and the Hudson County Democratic machine.

Faulkner spent twelve years on the Montclair governing body, the last four as mayor.

Gov. Alfred Driscoll named Faulkner to chair the New Jersey Municipal Optional Charter Act, which helped draft the plan that was adopted in 1950.

In 1960, Faulkner ran for Essex County Supervisor – an elected post that lacked the authority of the current County Executive.  It turned out to be a bad year for Essex Republicans – John F. Kennedy won the county by a 50,000-vote plurality – and Faulkner was beaten by incumbent Weldon Sheets.

When Montclair finally adopted a town manager form of government in 1979, the 86-year-old Faulkner was a top supporter.

Dallas Townsend was Faulkner’s running mate

Running with Faulkner on the Citizens Ticket in 1936 was Dallas Townsend, Sr., a World War I Army colonel and a New York lawyer.

Also in 1936, on the coattails of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s landslide re-election victory, Democrat Frank Towey defeated eleven-term Republican Rep. Frederick Lehlbach to flip the seat now held by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair).

Townsend was one of six Republicans who entered the 1938 primary for the shot to take on Towey in a GOP congressional district.

Townsend and banker Robert W. Kean were considered the leading contenders for the Republican nomination.  Kean was the son of former U.S. Senator Hamilton Kean and the father of future Gov. Thomas Kean.

Kean won the primary by 713 votes, 45%-43%.  He went on to beat Towey by a 55%-41% margin.

Townsend won re-election as a Montclair commissioner in 1940 and resigned two years alter to go on active duty during World War II.

In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower named Townsend as the assistant U.S. Attorney General to head the Justice Department’s Alien Property Office.  Townsend supervised all Axis assets and property seized during the war.  He remained in Washington until 1960.

More familiar to some New Jerseyans was Townsend’s son, CBS News national reporter Dallas Townsend.

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