Paul R. Kramer, a Hamilton Township Republican who served as an assemblyman and Mercer County freeholder, died on Tuesday after a lengthy illness. He was 86.
He was best known for sponsoring New Jersey’s Megan’s Law that created a statewide sex offender registry follow the murder of Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old Hamilton girl who was lured into a neighbor’s home, raped and murdered.
Kramer began his government service in 1966 when he became the assistant comptroller for the City of Trenton and served during the administrations of mayors Carmen J. Armenti and Arthur Holland. He later became finance director for Hamilton Township, serving under Mayor Jack Rafferty.
He ran for the State Assembly in 1981, losing to incumbent Joseph Bocchini (D-Hamilton) by just 660 votes.
In 1984, Kramer was elected to the Mercer County Board of Freeholders. Kramer and his running mate, Robert Prunetti, defeated Democratic incumbents William Klepper and Fred Gmitter. He was re-elected in 1987 and again in 1990.
A Republican wave created by Gov. Jim Florio’s $2.8 billion tax increase paved the way for Kramer to win a State Assembly seat in 1991.
Running with former Plainsboro Mayor Barbara Wright, they ousted two Democratic incumbents in a massive landslide.
Kramer was the top vote-getter with 31,944, followed by Wright with 29,655. Skip Cimino (D-Hamilton) lost his bid for a third term with 21,537 votes, followed by Peter Cantu (D-Plainsboro) with 18,168 votes. Cantu, the longtime mayor of Plainsboro, had won a special election convention to fill the 14th district Assembly seat after Joseph Patero (D-Manville) resigned to become assistant Commissioner of Labor.
The gigantic Kramer victory – 13,776 votes over Cantu – came in one of the state’s most politically competitive legislative districts.
Democrats put Kramer and Wright at the top of their target list for the next eight years.
Kramer and Wright held their seats in 1993 against East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov and former Monroe Township school board member Nina Kelty.
Wright finished 859 votes ahead of Kramer, who beat Mironov by 7,194 votes and Kelty by 9,197.
Democrats ran two Hamilton candidates in an attempt to flip the two Assembly seats in 1995: Tina D’Oria, a first-time candidate, and John Huntoon, who had served as a Princeton Borough councilman.
Kramer finished first, 942 votes ahead of Wright. D’Oria ran third, 1,659 votes behind Wright and 1,099 votes ahead of Huntoon.
Mironov again challenged Kramer and Wright in 1997, this time running with 34-year-old Diana Segarra-Smith, a Democratic county committeewoman from South Brunswick. Mironov and Segarra-Smith won the Democratic primary by a margin of almost 3-1 over D’Oria.
Kramer topped the ticket in the general election, running 270 votes ahead of Wright and 4,125 ahead of Mironov. Segarra-Smith finished fourth, 334 votes behind her running mate.
By 1999, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s second mid-term election, the district with the most public employees in the state finally went Democratic.
Democrat were helped by the retirement of Rafferty, the legendary mayor, and the absence of popular State Sen. Peter Inverso (R-Hamilton) from the ballot that year.
To run against Kramer and Wright, Democrats picked Plainsboro Township Committeewoman Linda Greenstein and Gary Guear, Sr., a retired Trenton police detective from Hamilton.
Greenstein got the Middlesex line – the deal was that Hamilton Democrat would pick the other candidate, over South Brunswick Councilman Edmund Luciano and Steven Richman, the former Plainsboro public defender.
The race was also fought on local issues, including a controversial plan to build Route 92, a toll road nearly seven miles long that would connect the New Jersey Turnpike Exit 8A interchange with Route 1. Republicans supported it and Democrats opposed the proposal.
In an exceptionally close race, Greenstein and Guear defeated the Republican incumbents.
Greenstein received 25,219 votes and Guear ran five votes behind her. Guear beat Kramer by 445 votes, with Wright trailing her running mate by 788.
In 2001, Kramer and Wright sought a political comeback but were swamped by the new freshman Democratic incumbents.
Kramer finished fourth in his last race, 3,906 votes behind Wright and 5,315 votes behind Greenstein.
He served as chairman Hamilton Township Improvement Authority from 1980 to 1984. Kramer was the Assembly Assistant Majority Leader from 1998 to 2000.
Kramer served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s.
He is survived by his wife, Clare, his three daughters and two sons, four grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.