Home>Feature>Ciattarelli looks to renew a New Jersey tradition: lose once, then win

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Ciattarelli looks to renew a New Jersey tradition: lose once, then win

Many governors have won on their second try for statewide office

By David Wildstein, January 21 2020 4:14 pm

Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli will formally enter the race for the 2021 Republican nomination for governor at an announcement at his old elementary school in Branchburg this afternoon.

This is Ciattarelli’s second gubernatorial bid as the ex-Somerset Count legislator hopes to revive a long-established  tradition of being elected governor of New Jersey after losing a bid for statewide office.

James E. McGreevey effectively coasted into the governorship in 2001 after coming within 25,425 votes of upsetting incumbent Christine Todd Whitman in 1997.  He was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Whitman unseated Gov. Jim Florio in 1993 after coming within three points of ousting incumbent Bill Bradley in the 1990 U.S. Senate race.

Florio’s near coronation in 1989 came on his third try.

The South Jersey congressman challenged incumbent Gov. Brendan Byrne in the 1977 primary and finished 4th in a field of 11 candidates with 15% of the vote.

In 1981, Florio won a 13-candidate field with 26% of the vote.  In the general election, he lost to Republican Tom Kean by just 1,797 votes out of nearly 2.3 million cast.

Kean had lost the 1977 Republican gubernatorial primary by a 55%-36% margin to Raymond Bateman (R-Branchburg), a former New Jersey Senate President.

Byrne won on his first try – he had never sought public office before – against Rep. Charles Sandman (R-Erma).

Sandman was making his third bid for governor.  He lost GOP primaries in 1969 and 1969 and then upset incumbent William Cahill in 1973.

Cahill had briefly sought the Republican nomination for governor in 1965, but dropped out long before the filing deadline.  A South Jersey congressman, he was elected in 1969.

Instead of Sandman and Cahill in 1965, the GOP nominated State Sen. Wayne Dumont (R-Phillipsburg), a former Senate President who had lost the 1961 gubernatorial primary.  Dumont beat Sandman by 12,911 votes, 50%-46%.

The two gubernatorial candidates in 1961 – former Superior Court Judge Richard Hughes and former U.S. Secretary of Labor James Mitchell – had not run statewide.  Hughes had lost a congressional bid in 1938 and later served as Mercer County Democratic Chairman; Mitchell was a first-time candidate when he beat Dumont and State Sen. Walter Jones (R-Norwood) in the GOP primary.

The 1957 Republican primary was won by magazine publisher and State Sen. Malcolm Forbes (R-Far Hills).  He had lost the 1953 Republican gubernatorial primary and was defeated in the 1957 general by incumbent Robert Meyner.

Meyner served two terms as governor and sat out eight years before running for a third term in 1969.  He won the Democratic primary but list the general election to Cahill.

In 1953, Meyner, a former State Senator minority leader – he lost his Senate seat to Dumont two years earlier, defeated Elmer Wene (D-Vineland), a state senator from Cumberland County and a former congressman, by 1,585 votes in the Democratic primary, 46%-45%.

Wene, a chicken farmer, was making his third statewide run.  He lost a U.S. Senate race by a narrow 40%-49% margin in 1944 and came within four points of upsetting Gov. Alfred Driscoll in 1949.

Driscoll, a former state senator from Camden County, had beaten former Gov. Harold Hoffman by sixteen points in the 1946 GOP primary.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno defeated Ciattarelli by 38,290 votes, 47%-31%, in the 2017 Republican gubernatorial primary.

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