Albert Angrisani, who played a key role in Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign in New Jersey and then served as Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor, died on April 23. He was 70.
Angrisani began his political career in 1976 as a volunteer on Reagan’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination against incumbent Gerald R. Ford.
He became a candidate for the Bernardsville Borough Council in 1977, at age 27, seeking the open seat of incumbent Harold Quis. Quis had decied not to seek re-election after serving as a councilman since 1971.
He won the Republican primary by a 3-1 margin over Herbert Minich and Muriel Guerin and finished just 105 votes behind incumbent Peter Palmer in a race for two seats.
Angrisani and Palmer were unopposed in the general election.
In 1978, Angrisani played a leading role in the successful campaign of Jeff Bell, a former Reagan campaign speechwriter, against four-term incumbent Clifford Case in the GOP U.S. Senate primary.
Somerset County went for Bell by a 61%-39% margin, giving him a 2,511-vote plurality. Bell beat Case in the statewide contest by 3,473 votes.
In early 1980, Reagan announced that Hamilton Mayor Jack Rafferty would chair his New Jersey campaign and that Angrisani would serve as executive director of the New Jersey Reagan for President Committee.
Angrisani was the pick of Reagan’s northeast political director, Roger Stone.
He had spent eight years as a vice president at Chase Manhattan Bank when he left to run the Reagan New Jersey campaign.
After the Republican convention, Reagan named construction company executive Raymond J. Donovan to head his New Jersey campaign, with Angrisani as the state campaign director.
Reagan carried New Jersey by a 52%-39% margin in the 1980 general election over Jimmy Carter. He carried 18 counties, and lost Hudson by two points, Mercer by six points and Essex by ten points in a race where Reagan’s statewide plurality was 399,193 votes.
Angrisani was re-elected to a second term as a Bernardsville councilman in 1980 without opposition.
At the 1981 New Jersey Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in Washington held just two weeks after Reagan was inaugurated, word began to spread that Angrisani would get a federal post working for Donovan, the new U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Angrisani’s ascent was expected. Soon after the November election, he and his pregnant wife moved to Northern Virginia to join the Reagan transition team full-time.
Reagan nominated Angrisani to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor and chief of staff a week after the Chamber event. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 12, 1981 with the backing of New Jersey’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Harrison A. Williams, Jr. and Bill Bradley.
At the Labor department, Angrisani helped write the Job training Partnership Act of 1982.
Between March and December 1982, following Williams resignation, Angrisani helped navigate a conflict between New Jersey’s interim senator, Nicholas Brady, and Donovan over the appointment of federal judges from New Jersey.
After Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R-Bernardsville) said she should run for the U.S. Senate, Angrisani considered running for the open 5th district seat. The issue became moot when New Jersey lost a House seat after the 1980 Census and Fenwick’s district was eliminated.
Angrisani departed the Department of Labor after Reagan began his second term in 1985. He joined the Arthur D. Little strategy consulting firm before launching Angrisani Turnarounds in 1990. He also served on corporate boards, including Total Research Corporation. Later, he came Total Research’s president and CEO.
He was a graduate of Washington and Lee University and received his MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. As a graduate student, he lobbied on federal issues for the university.
Angrisani is survived by his three daughters and seven grandchildren. A private graveside service will be held, followed by a memorial service at a later date.