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The famous "Trenton Makes, the World Takes" sign on the Lower Trenton Bridge connects the state's capital city with Pennsylvania. (Photo: Shutterstock).

New Jersey has become an exporter of candidates

Five statewide contenders running in 2022 have lived in New Jersey

By David Wildstein, September 16 2022 2:06 pm

New Jersey makes and the world takes, at least when it comes to raising candidates and then exporting them to other states.

This year in Pennsylvania, two Republican statewide candidates are Jersey Boys: Dr. Mehmet Oz grew up in New Jersey and despite moving to run for the U.S. Senate last year, remains a registered voter at his family home in Cliffside Park; and gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano grew up in Hightstown – his mother and grandmother both held local public office – and he voted in New Jersey through 2010.

Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut who is seeking re-election in Arizona, grew up in West Orange.  Herschel Walker, the GOP U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia, lived in Verona in the 1980s and 1990s while playing professional football.  The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in North Carolina, former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, lived in New Brunswick for four years while attending Rutgers University in the 1980s.

The governor of Montana, Republican Greg Gianforte, grew up in Pennsylvania – about 20 miles from New Jersey – and then moved to New Jersey to attend college in 1979.  He married a New Jersey woman and lived in Monmouth County until his move to Montana in 1995.

Gianforte’s parents were both from New Jersey: his father grew up in Newark and his mother in Pittstown.  The Montana governor’s brother, Michael, is a Brielle councilman and the executive director of the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority.

New Jerseyan Matt Mowers, who grew up in East Brunswick and worked for Gov. Chris Christie, moved to New Hampshire to become executive director of the state GOP and then state director of Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign there.  After Christie lost — he won just 7% of the vote — Mowers moved home to New Jersey and voted in a second primary that year.  He returned to New Hampshire  take on Pappas in 2020, lost, and this week lost a bid for a rematch in  the Republican primary.

Six House members from other states grew up in New Jersey.

Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx Democrat who ousted a longtime incumbent in a primary two years ago, played football for Sayreville War Memorial High School.  Seven-term Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes grew up in Pennington and graduated from Hopewell Valley Central High School.  Darren Soto, who won a Florida congressional seat in 2018, is from Ringwood and attended Lakeland Regional High School.

Scott Peters, a California Democrat who has been in Congress for ten years, is a graduate of Westfield High School.  North Carolina Democrat Alma Adams, a congresswoman since 2014, graduated from West Side High School in Newark.   Abigail Spanberger, a two-term Democrat from Virginia, spent part of her childhood in Red Bank.

In Florida, State Sen. Annette Taddeo is a Jersey Girl by blood.  Her father, Anthony, was born and raised in Orange and served in World War II and Korea.  He later moved to Columbia, where his daughter was born.  Taddeo’s aunt was the school secretary in Mark Kelly’s West Orange school.

Taddeo is challenging freshman Republican María Elvira Salazar, who ousted Donna Shalala for the Miami-based seat in 2020.

Stefan Pryor, who served as deputy mayor under Cory Booker from 2006 to 2011, lost the Democratic primary for Rhode Island State Treasurer this week.  Pryor spent four years as Connecticut Commissioner of Education before becoming Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce in 2015.

Three other U.S. Senators also have New Jersey ties: Ted Cruz (Texas) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon) attended Princeton University, and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) is a Rutgers Law School graduate.

First Lady Jill Biden was born in Hammonton, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff grew up in Old Bridge and attended Hebrew school at Temple Shalom in Matawan.  Two men who were born in Trenton, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, Jr., served together on the U.S. Supreme Court for a decade.

Two of New Jersey’s last three governors were Garden State immigrants: Jon Corine grew up in Illinois, and Phil Murphy in Massachusetts.   (Murphy and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker were classmates at Needham High School.)

Bill Bradley grew up in Missouri and moved to New Jersey to attend Princeton University.  He lived in Denville while playing for the New York Knicks and stayed in the state to run for the U.S. Senate in 1978.   Clifford Case, whose bid for a fifth term was cut short in 1978 when he lost the Republican primary, grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York.

In the state’s congressional delegation, only one – Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) – didn’t grown up in New Jersey.  Sherill is from Northern Virginia and moved to the state.

New Jersey’s most prominent modern-day carpetbagger story was in 1988 when Republicans recruited Pete Dawkins, a retired U.S. Army General and Heisman Trophy winner at West Point,  to move to New Jersey to run against freshman Democrat Frank Lautenberg.

Lautenberg, the founder of Automated Data Processing (ADP)  had been a bit of an upset winner in 1982 when he became one of the early self-funders in a New Jersey statewide election, spending about $5 million of his own money.   He beat two former congressmen and seven other candidates in the Democratic primary, and then defeated the fabled Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R-Bernardsville) in the general election by a 51%-48% margin.

The GOP thought they could beat the 64-year-old Lautenberg in 1988.  New Jersey had gone Republican in five consecutive presidential elections and Tom Kean was re-elected governor in 1985 with 70% of the vote.

The early favorite to run against Lautenberg was Leonard Coleman, 39, Kean’s Commissioner of Community Affairs and the first Black to score a touchdown as a member of the Princeton University football team.  Coleman had spent a couple of years preparing for a Senate campaign against his fellow Montclair resident.

At the time, Dawkins was an investment banker living in Manhattan.  New York Republicans had touted him as a potential gubernatorial candidate against Mario Cuomo in 1987 or for Senate against Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1988.

New Jersey Republicans first caught a glimpse of Dawkins in 1986 when he attended a fundraiser at the Rumson home of GOP insider Lawrence Bathgate for the political action committee that was helping Vice President George Bush in his pursuit of the 1988 GOP presidential nomination.

The idea of Dawkins running against Lautenberg was the idea of Greg Stevens, Kean’s former chief of staff and top political advisor.  Stevens had left the Kean administration and was working at the Washington, D.C. lobbying and political consulting firm of Black, Manafort and Stone.

Dawkins met with Kean in early 1987 and essentially cleared the field.  Coleman was told he wasn’t running – six years later he got a better job as president of Major League Baseball’s National League – and Dawkins, then 49, left his post as a managing director of Shearson Lehman Brothers and bought a house in Rumson.

Dawkins had a great story: he eschewed an NFL career to go to Oxford, and then received two Bronze Stars for his service commanding infantry divisions in Vietnam.  He appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in uniform and served as a White House fellow.  Dawkins spent 24 years in the army, serving at the Pentagon and retiring as a brigadier general.

“Pete Dawkins is the biggest thing to hit New Jersey since Bill Bradley,” Roger Stone, one of his political consultants, told political columnist Tom Hester.

The race pitted Stone against Lautenberg’s consultants, James Carville and Paul Begala.

As a first-time candidate, Dawkins had a series of missteps.

When he said, “I’d blow my brains out if I had to live in a small town,” Lautenberg pounced.

Lautenberg slammed Dawkins for being a carpetbagger, linked Dawkins to pollution at a California army base, and called him a phony.  A magazine story titled, “Pete Dawkins and The Art of Failing Upward” didn’t help.

“Come on Pete, be real,” became a tagline of Lautenberg’s TV ads.

Dawkins called Lautenberg a “swamp dog.”

New Jersey voters split their ticket in 1988.

Bush carried New Jersey by 422,839 votes, a 56%-42% win against Michael Dukakis.  Lautenberg beat Dawkins by 249,968 votes, 54%-45%.

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