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Former Assembly Speaker Thomas H. Kean on election night 1981 at the Holiday Inn in Livingston. (Photo: Eagleton Center on the American Governor, Rutgers University.)

Ciattarelli looks to be 6th person to win NJ gubernatorial primary on second try

Under current State Constitution, 9 candidates lost two gubernatorial primaries

By David Wildstein, December 24 2020 4:13 pm

If Jack Ciattarelli wins the Republican primary for Governor of New Jersey next year, he will become the sixth person to win the nomination on their second try.   Eight others have lost consecutive gubernatorial runs.

Of the five, only one – Republican Thomas Kean – went on to win the general election.  Another, Jim Florio, won the Democratic primary on his second try but it took three bids to win a general election.

Florio challenged incumbent Gov. Brendan Byrne in the 1977 Democratic primary and finished fourth with 15%.  He won the 1981 nomination but lost the general to Kean by 1,797 votes statewide – 49.46% to 49.38%.  He was elected governor in 1989.

Kean ran for governor in 1977 and lost the GOP nomination by a 55%-36% margin to State Sen. Raymond Bateman.  When he ran again four years later, he won the primary by a 31%-21% margin in an eight-candidate field.

Charles Sandman ran three times for governor.  He lost the nomination in 1965 and 1969 and then ousted incumbent Gov. William Cahill in the 1973 Republican primary, 58%-41%.  He lost the general to Byrne by a 67%-32% margin.

Wayne Dumont also ran three times. Defeated in 1957 and 1961 primaries, he won the Republican nomination in 1965 but lost to Gov. Richard Hughes, 57%-41%.

Millionaire magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes lost the 1953 GOP primary for governor.  He was nominated in 1957, but Gov. Robert Meyner beat him by 11 points in the general election.

Florio and Sandman were congressmen from South Jersey.  Kean had served as Assembly Speaker, and Dumont and Forbes were state senators.

Ciattarelli is looking to avoid becoming the 10th candidate to lose two gubernatorial primaries.

The others: State Sen. Ralph DeRose (1973 and 1977); Assemblywoman Ann Klein (1973 and 1981); Rep. Robert Roe (1977 and 1981); Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson (1981 and 1985); State Sen. James Wallwork (1981 and 1993); Attorney General Cary Edwards (1989 and 1993); Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (2005 and 2009); Sandman and Dumont.

James E. McGreevey won two Democratic gubernatorial primaries.  He lost the 1997 general election to Christine Todd Whitman, and was elected four years later.  Whitman had lost a 1990 U.S. Senate race to Bill Bradley and then unseated Florio in 1993.

Eight New Jersey governors under the current State Constitution won general elections on their first try: Phil Murphy (2017); Chris Christie (2009); Jon Corzine (2005); Byrne (1973), Cahill (1969); Hughes (1961); Meyner (1953) and Alfred Driscoll (1946).  Murphy and Byrne were fist-time candidates for any office.

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