Today’s announcement by Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) that he will not seek re-election to the State Senate will trigger a change in Republican leadership in both houses.
Republicans will need to replace Kean as the senate Republican leader when his term ends in January. Kean has held the post since 2008, when he unseated Leonard Lance in a leadership fight.
Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) is leaving the Assembly to run for Kean’s Senate seat, which will set up a race for Assembly Republican Leader next year.
The open posts are likely to be for minority leaders, since Republicans have practically no path to majorities in either house that would make the contests for Senate President or Assembly Speaker.
Kean and Bramnick are planning to remain in their minority leader posts through the end of their current terms in January 2022.
State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) has left the door open to running for Senate Minority Leader.
“It’s not something I’m going to campaign for, but if Republicans in the caucus ask me to do it, that’s a different story,” Oroho said. “I like what I’m doing now, as budget officer.”
There was talk of a similar leadership change last November when Kean and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) were locked in a close race for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district.
Had Kean won, Bramnick would have resigned from the Assembly to fill the open Senate seat.
Two Republican senators, Robert Singer (R-Lakewood) and Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), made calls to their colleagues seeking support.
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) had also been in the mix for minority leader, sources told the New Jersey Globe.
All four are potential candidates to lead the Senate Republican Caucus, along with State Sens. Michael Testa (R-Vineland) and Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton).
Kean’s 14-year stint as minority leader is the longest in New Jersey history, withstanding just one challenge for re-election.
He had been in the Senate for less than five years before ascending to the minority leader post, withstanding just one challenge in six re-election bids.
Bramnick became minority leader in 2012 following the unexpected death of Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany). He’s had no opposition for the post, although some legislators were angling for the job while Bramnick was fending off a challenge to his Assembly seat in 2019.
Bucco had been viewed as the most logical candidate for Minority Leader before the death of his father in 2019 put him into the State Senate.
Possible candidates for minority leader include: Co-Minority Conference Leaders Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) and John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown); Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany); and Assemblymen Rob Clifton (R-Matawan), Ned Thompson (R-Wall) and Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River).