Karla J. Squier, an Essex County GOP stalwart who began her political career working for two generations of the Kean family in the 1960s, died of multiple myeloma cancer on January 26. She was 91.
Squier was a longtime Republican State Committeewoman and Maplewood GOP Municipal Chair and served as the Essex County Superintendent of Elections.
She became involved in politics in 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower sought re-election, and volunteered on campaigns for Rep. Robert W. Kean (R-Livingston) for re-election to the House that year and for the U.S. Senate in 1958. She also helped George Wallhauser (R-Maplewood) win Kean’s open congressional seat and get re-elected in 1960 and 1962.
Three months after Kean’s 20-year career in Congress ended in January, 1959, he was elected Essex County Republican Chairman. Squier became a staffer for Kean at the Essex County GOP headquarters during his three years as county chairman
In 1967, Squier worked on the campaign of Kean’s 32-year-old son, Thomas H. Kean (R-Livingston), in his bid for an Essex County State Assembly seat in District 11-F. The district went from Caldwell to Irvington and included Essex Fells, Roseland, Livingston, Millburn, Maplewood and South Orange.
The primary that year featured a fight between two significant factions of the Essex County Republicans.
Kean and Philip Kaltenbacher (R-Millburn) defeated former Assemblyman Donald Fitz Maurice (R-Maplewood) and Vivian Tompkins Lange, the siter of former U.S. Attorney William Tompkins.
She served as a legislative aide to Kean and Kaltenbacher, and later to Assemblywoman Jane Burgio (R-North Caldwell) when she replaced Kaltenbacher in 1973. Later, she served as an aide to Assemblyman Bob Franks (R-New Providence).
Squier ran for state committeewoman in 1973 on the organization line headed by Gov. William Cahill. Running with Frederic Remington, Jr. (R-North Caldwell), they defeated Anthony Scala and Janice Baker, who were running on a line with Rep. Charles W. Sandman (R-Erma). Sandman defeated Cahill in the primary by 17 points, but Cahill on Essex, 52%-47%.
She was re-elected state committeewoman in 1977 and 1981. Squier was an alternate delegate to the 1976 Republican National Convention pledged to President Gerald R. Ford and to the 1980 and 1984 conventions in support of Ronald Reagan.
In 1977, Squier had backed Tom Kean for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. After the winner of the GOP primary, State Sen. Raymond Bateman (R-Branchburg) picked David Norcross as state party chairman, Squier ran for vice chair against incumbent Ann Flynn of Monmouth County, and lost, 31-9. Bateman had endorsed Flynn but told state committee members that they were free to make their own decision.
Four years later, after Kean became the Republican candidate for governor, she mounted another campaign for vice chair against Flynn and had commitments from about 27 of the state’s 42 state committee members but dropped out after Kean picked another Essex resident, Kaltenbacher, to serve as GOP state chairman. Flynn, who backed Pat Kramer for governor, was replaced anyway, by Geraldine Mattson of Cranford.
Kean nominated Squier to serve as deputy superintendent of elections in 1982. Essex County Democratic Chairman Raymond Durkin got a seat on the State Board of Mediation in exchange for signoff on Squier from Essex County’s four Democratic state senators.
In 1984, Kean elevated Squier to superintendent after the retirement of Edward Downey, a Democrat. She moved through senatorial courtesy in Essex as part of a massive package of more than 50 nominees from across the state.
After Democrat Jim Florio became governor, he nominated Carmen Casciano, a former freeholder, to serve as superintendent and Squier returned to the deputy post.
Squier retired to North Carolina in 2002 and became involved in local politics there.
A single-mother, Squier worked as a seamstress to support her family.
She is survived by her son, Christian, and two granddaughters. He daughter, Dawn, predeceased her.