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Kieran Pillion, Jr. as a candidate for Congress in 1980, left, and now as a candidate for Ocean County Surrogate

38 years after losing to Fenwick, Democrat is still running

Kieran Pillion’s story includes Joe Maraziti, Harry Sears — and Garret Hobart

By David Wildstein, October 28 2018 1:36 pm

In 1980, a 25-year-old Democrat running for Congress against Millicent Fenwick said that he was better positioned to help attract federal funding to solve flooding issues in the Green Brook basin because a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, occupied the oval office.

David Wildstein Collection

Fenwick swamped Kieran Pillion, Jr., a former Birch Bayh for president campaign worker.  She beat him by 114,747 votes, 78%-31%, running way ahead of the top of the ticket.  Ronald Reagan beat Carter 56%-32% in the Somerset-Morris district, a plurality of 51,634.

Jump ahead 38 years, and Pillion is still running in races he can not win.

Pillion is the Democratic candidate for Ocean County Surrogate against longtime incumbent Jeffrey Moran.  Moran has been in public office for 48 years; he won a seat on the Beachwood Borough Council in 1970, at age 23, and served as an Assemblyman from 1986 to 2003.

He challenged County Clerk Scott Colabella in 2015 and lost 66%-34%.  Colabella goes back as far as Pillion: he worked on the Chris Smith’s 1980 campaign and interned for Smith when he was a freshman congressman in 1981 and 1982.

Pillion lost races for the North Hanover Township Board of Education in 1991 and for Township Committeeman in 1991.  He also lost a race for Island Heights Borough Council in 2013.

Going one generation back: Kieran Pillion, Sr. also ran in an unwinnable race.  He was a Democratic candidate for State Assembly in 1963, running against incumbents Joseph Maraziti (R-Boonton) and Harry Sears (R-Mountain Lakes) in Morris County.

Maraziti and Sears both moved up to the State Senate in 1967 and both eventually served as Senate Majority Leader.  Maraziti went to Congress in 1972 before Watergate and another scandal ended his political career.  Sears ran for governor in 1969 – he finished third in a field of five candidates with 12% of the vote – and as chairman of Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, was implicated in the Watergate scandal.

Prosecutors alleged that Sears delivered $200,00 in a briefcase filled with small bills from his client, financier Robert Vesco, to Maurice Stans, Nixon’s finance chairman.

One more: Pillion Sr.’s running mate in the 1963 Assembly race was Garret Hobart IV, the 28-year-old scion of a prominent Republican family.  His great-grandfather and namesake was elected Vice President of the United States on a ticket with William McKinley in 1896; he died in 1899 and was succeeded after the 1990 election by Theodore Roosevelt.  A Paterson Republican, Hobart had served as Assembly Speaker, Senate President and Republican National Committeeman.

His great-great grandfather on his mother’s side, William Frye, was a U.S. Senator from Maine for twenty years and was the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate at the time of Garret Hobart’s death.

Hobart and Pillion lost their Assembly races by more nearly 30,000 votes.  Hobart lost a 1971 State Senate race to Maraziti and Republican Peter Thomas by a wide margin.

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