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Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

NJ’s history of winning the second time around

By David Wildstein

Jack Ciattarelli, who told the Associated Press that he expects to run for governor again in 2021, is following a familiar model of making back-to-back bids for statewide office.  Ciattarelli sough the Republican nomination for governor in 2017.

Tom Kean, Jim Florio, Christine Todd Whitman and Jim McGreevey all lost statewide races before finally winning a gubernatorial election.

Kean lost the 1977 GOP primary and kept his eye on the 1981 nomination for the next few years from his spots on the New Jersey Highway Authority and as a special commentator for NJN News.

Florio lost the 1977 Democratic primary and then never stopped running.  His four-year campaign helped him capture the nomination in 1981.  After a recount-close loss in 1981, he worked on statewide issues and politics while serving as a congressman.  By 1989, he easily won the primary and general elections.

After nearly knocking off popular U.S. Senator Bill Bradley in 1990 – Bradley’s only real vulnerability was Florio’s tax increases – Whitman immediately set her sights on running for Governor in 1993 and beat Florio.

McGreevey came within 25,000 votes of unseating Whitman in 1997 and spent the next four years at a frenetic pace that led to running essentially unopposed in the Democratic primary and then scoring an easy win in the general election.

Still, the lose-once, then win strategy doesn’t always work.  Wayne Dumont, Charlie Sandman, Bob Roe, Ann Klein, Doug Forrester, Barbara Boggs Sigmund, Bob Franks, Ralph DeRose, Jeff Bell, and Bret Schundler are just a few of the examples of candidates who ran statewide twice in a decade.

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