Walter F. Mondale, the 42nd Vice President of the United States and the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, died on Monday evening. He was 93.
The New Jersey primary on June 5, 1984 proved to be a pivotal moment in his bid to take on President Ronald Reagan.
Mondale was battling Gary Hart for the nomination, and while he let in the delegate count, the race was still not over going into the final day of the presidential primary season. California and New Jersey were the biggest delegate prizes on a day that featured contests in New Mexico, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Hart made a major gaffe while campaigning in California, telling an audience that his wife, Lee, remained there while he headed to New Jersey.
“The good news for her is that she campaigns in California while I campaign in New Jersey,” Hart said.
Making things worse: when Lee Hart said that she got to “hold a Koala Bear,” Hart said “
Compounding the problem, when his wife interjected that she “got to hold a koala bear,” Hart said of his trip to New Jersey: “I won’t tell you what I got to hold: samples from a toxic-waste dump.”
Mondale won a decisive 104,568-vote victory in New Jersey, 45%-30%, with Jesse Jackson winning 24%. He carried 19 of 21 counties; Hart won Hunterdon by 57 votes and Sussex by 391.
New Jersey gave Mondale 115 delegates, with 7 for Jackson and none for Hart.
Mondale’s name appeared on the ballot in New Jersey four times: as Jimmy Carter’s running mate in 1976 and 1980, and as a presidential candidate in the 1984 primary and general elections. The 1984 primary was his only victory.
In 1976, Gerald Ford and Bob Dole carried New Jersey by a narrow 65,035 votes, 50%-48%. Reagan and George Bush won the state’s 17 electoral votes in 1980 by 399,193 votes, 42%-39%, against Carter and Mondale, with 8% going for independent John B. Anderson.
Reagan defeated Mondale in the 1984 general election by a massive plurality of 672,307 votes, 60%-39%. Mondale carried only Essex County (55%-43%), with Reagan winning the other 20 counties. Reagan carried Hudson, 54%-45%; on his coattails, Republicans ousted two incumbent Democrats on the Hudson County Board of Freeholders.
In that race, Mondale picked Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-New York) as the Democratic nominee for Vice President Ferraro was the first woman – still just one of four – to run on a national ticket.
Mondale was the 36-year-old Minnesota state attorney general in 1964 when U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey was elected Vice President on a ticket with Lyndon Johnson. Gov. Karl Rolvaag appointed Mondale to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat.
“Walter Mondale brought good humor, dignity, kindness, and honesty to more than a half-century of public service, ” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “Since I first met him 15 years ago, he was a friend. There are many across politics lucky enough to have called him their friend, too. He never stopped advocating for smart policy or advising those who sought his opinion. His career is no footnote in history. He left an indelible mark.”