Home>Campaigns>Rey Redington, Republican who ran against Joe Minish, dies at 78

Rowley W.P. Redington. (Photo: Reddington Family).

Rey Redington, Republican who ran against Joe Minish, dies at 78

Former Montclair GOP chairman later became a progressive Democrat

By David Wildstein, March 29 2023 12:17 pm

Rey Redington, the Republican nominee for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th district in 1982, died on March 19.  He was 78.

Once a staunch supporter of President Ronald Reagan, Redington later became a progressive Democrat and served as treasurer of Blue Wave NJ for seven years.

“He believed strongly in the importance of the Democratic process and the rights of all people to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. He rolled his wheelchair in many a protest – racial justice, women’s rights, the right to same-sex marriage, voting rights, and climate change,” his family said in an obituary.  “The ins and outs of how local politics affected communities were always important to him, and he threw his energy into helping people even when that made him an unwelcome guest at many a town meeting.”

A former corporate executive for Exon, he purchased a gas station on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair and was among the first to add a convenience store to the gas station in the 1970s.    Redington had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the late 1970s.

After serving as president of the Montclair Chamber of Commerce, Redington became a candidate for an at-large Montclair council seat in 1980 when the town switched from a town commission form of government to a seven-member town council.   He was an independent candidate against the Montclair Community Association slate headed by attorney Mary V. Mochary and the Forward Montclair ticket led by school board member James Ramsey.    In total, 13 candidates for three at-large seats in the non-partisan municipal election.

A low-turnout election sent the top six vote-getters into a runoff.  Redington just narrowly missed a runoff slot, running 192 votes behind incumbent Michael Delahunty.    He ran ahead of incumbent Betty Evans.

Some of the candidates in the 1980 Montclair race would later become more visible in state politics:  Mochary became the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 1984, losing to Bill Bradley; unsuccessful at-large candidate DeForest (Buster) Soaries served as New Jersey Secretary of State under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and Angelo J. Genova, who finished tenth in that race, later became the head of one of the state’s most politically influential law firm.

NJ-11 GOP congresional candidate Rey Redington with Gov. Thomas H. Kean in 1982. (Photo: New Jersey Republican State Committee).

In 1982., Redington became a candidate for Congress to take on Rep. Joseph Minish (D-West Orange), a ten-term incumbent.   He won the Essex County Republican organization line against Bob Davis, a conservative from Verona who had won 34% against Minish in 1980.    Frank Bell, an East Hanover engineer who had received 12% of the vote in a 1978 congressional bid in a primary won by Jim Courter in the 13th district, also entered the race.

Redistricting made the 11th slightly more Republican; Ronald Reagan had won the old district by ten percentage points in 1980, but the new map made it a Regan +17 district.  The district was predominately Essex — most of urban Essex was in Peter Rodino’s 10th district – and included small parts of Morris, Passaic, and Hudson counties.

Reddington defeated Bell in the Republican primary, by 1,353 votes, 39%-33%, with Davis finishing third with 28%.  Reddington won Essex by 78 votes over Bell, and Bell carried  Morris by 526 votes.  But Reddington took Bergen by 708 votes, Passaic by 682 votes, and Hudson by 411.

Minish also had a primary, defeating Frank Askin, a legendary ACLU lawyer, with 75% of the vote.

In the Reagan mid-term general election, Minish beat Redington by 57,099 votes, 64%-35%.  Minish received 67% in Essex, 64% in Bergen and Hudson, and 57% in Passaic.  Redington won the Morris portion of NJ-11 by 41 votes.

Two years later, a panel of federal judges overturned the 1982 congressional map and picked a new one that replaced huge parts of Essex with most of Morris and parts of Sussex and Warren.

Redington expressed interest in running in the new district but dropped out after Republicans quickly – within two days of the court-drawn map being released – cleared the field for Assembly Minority Leader Dean Gallo (R-Parsippany) to run.  Gallo defeated Minish by nearly twelve points, 56%-44%, in a district that Reagan carried with 69%.

After that, Redington remained active in politics as the Montclair Republican municipal chairman.  Later, after moving to Monroe and discovering that the community had no local newspaper, he founded MonroeNow in 2017 to fill the need for local news.

“His 78 years on planet earth were full of friendships, the kind of adventures that stem from an entrepreneurial spirit, and connections grounded in the faith that all people have stories that matter,” the Redington family said.  “His humor, kindness, the twinkle in his clear blue eyes and the combination of his moral compass and willingness to learn new things will be remembered and missed by so many.”

Redington, who was born Rowley Wilhelm Philips Redington, is survived by his wife of more than 56 years, Rebecca, two children, three grandsons, and several siblings.

A celebration of Redington’s life will be held in September.

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