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Martin S. Fox, the Demcoratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey's 12th district in 1952 and 1954.

Martin Fox, who ran for Congress 68 years ago, dies of coronavirus

95-year-old Millburn attorney ran twice against Rep. Robert Kean in 1950s

By David Wildstein, April 11 2020 1:37 pm

Martin S. Fox, who was 28-years-old when he challenged Rep. Robert W. Kean (R-Livingston) in 1952, has died of complications related to the coronavirus.  He was 95.

Fox was New Jersey’s longest-living congressional candidate, passing away nearly 68 years after he lost to Kean, the father of former Gov. Thomas Kean, by 15,903 votes, 55%-45%.

Two years later – President Dwight Eisenhower’s mid-term election – and nearly unseated Kean in what was the closest New Jersey House race that year.  Kean won by 6,837 votes, 53%-47%.

Fox is likely among the last living Democratic congressional candidates to run on a ticket headed by Adlai Stevenson and John Sparkman.

The Newark Evening News jumped the gun after early vote counts showed Fox ahead and declared him the winner.

“I still have the paper.  It says, ‘Fox wins for Congress,’” he recalled last year.  “They screwed up.”

Gov. Phil Murphy today praised Fox as a passionate crusader of social justice.

“What a life he packed into his years,” Murphy said. “During the long, hot summer of 1963, he went to Florida to represent pro bono members of the civil rights movement. “

Fox told the New Jersey Globe last year that he planned to vote for Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) in 2020 against the grandson of his former opponent, Tom Kean, Jr.

A World War II Army lieutenant and Harvard Law School graduate, Essex County Democratic chairman Dennis Carey gave him the nod to run for Congress.  Fox’s father, Jacob Fox, was a prominent Essex County political insider as the counsel to the Newark Board of Education.

His campaign manager in 1952 was Harry Lerner, a 47-year-old insurance executive and former freeholder candidate who would later become one of the most powerful Democratic bosses in the state.

Fox never ran for office again, although he managed Irvington mayor Thomas Holleran’s unsuccessful campaign for an open seat when Kean ran for the U.S. Senate in 1958.

He spent nine years on the state Board of Education under governors Robert Meyner and Richard Hughes, and was general counsel to the New Jersey Highway Authority under Gov. Brendan Byrne.

Fox is survived by wife, Muriel, his daughters Sara and Rachel, and their families.

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