Henry P. McNamara, who served in the New Jersey State 23 years, died today. He was 83.
McNamara was first elected to the Senate in a November 1985 special election following the death of six-term State Sen. Garrett Hagedorn. He defeated Charles Ryan, a commissioner of the Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority, by a 69%-31% margin.
The owner of a car dealership, McNamara served as a councilman and mayor in Wyckoff before winning a seat on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders in 1983.
He had no trouble holding his 40th district State Senate seat, winning re-election six times.
He served in the Senate Republican leadership from 1989 through 1991, and became chairman of the Senate Environment Committee in 1992.
In July of 1991, as Republicans were seeking to take control of the State Senate, McNamara refused to return to Trenton from a vacation and the GOP fell one vote short of repealing Gov. Jim Florio’s assault weapons ban.
In 2002, McNamara became the Republican candidate for Bergen County Executive. He was widely considered the front runner to succeed Pat Schuber, who was stepping down after three terms. But in a campaign largely orchestrated by then Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero, McNamara lost to Democrat Dennis McNerney by a 53%-47% margin.
McNamara retired from the Senate in 2007 and was succeeded by Republican Assemblyman Kevin O’Toole.
Assemblyman Kevin Rooney, also a former Republican mayor of Wyckoff, offered strong praise for the late senator.
“Senator McNamara has acted as a mentor for me in my public service, but has also been a close friend to my family and myself,” said Rooney. “My deepest condolences go out to his wife Joan and family. He will be greatly missed, but he has made a lasting impact.”
Former Gov. Richard Codey says that it was “a delight to serve with Senator Hank McNamara.”
“He was a good friend and a true gentleman,” Codey said. “Senator McNamara wasn’t partisan– he never saw Republicans or Democrats, just people that he wanted to help.”