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Roger Bodman. (Photo courtesy of Steve Adubato).

Labor Leader: Roger Bodman

The political whiz kid ran Tom Kean’s gubernatorial campaign

By David Wildstein, September 05 2022 12:01 am

Roger Bodman, who managed the closest gubernatorial race in modern New Jersey history, became the youngest Commissioner of Labor in state history when Gov. Tom Kean nominated him in 1982 at age 29

A fixture in New Jersey politics since the 1970s, Bodman started out working for Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R-Bernardsville).  He was Fenwick’s driver for her first congressional race in 1974 against Democrat Fred Bohen, a former Johnson administration official.  He later served as Fenwick’s district director.

In 1978, he was the campaign manager for Jim Courter, a former first assistant Warren County Prosecutor who was running for Congress in the old 13th district, which included parts of Mercer and Morris counties and all of Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren.

Courter won the Republican primary by just 134 votes against former State Sen. Bill Schluter (R-Pennington) and then ousted two-term Rep. Helen Meyner (D-Phillipsburg), a former First Lady of New Jersey, by a 52%-48% margin in Jimmy Carter’s mid-term election year.

Bodman served as Courter’s chief of staff until 1981, when former Assembly Speaker Thomas H. Kean hired him to manage his campaign for governor.   Kean won the GOP primary with 31% of the vote in an eight-candidate filed.  In the general election, Kean defeated Rep. Jim Florio (D-Runnemede) by 1,797 votes, 49.46% to 49.38%.

Kean nominated Bodman to serve as his Commissioner of Labor in 1982.  At age 29, he became one of the youngest cabinet members in state history and built relationships with top labor leaders that have held for four decades.

In 1985, Kean named Bodman as his Commissioner of Transportation.  He played a role in the creation of New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund.

Bodman left state government in 1987 to launch his own public affairs firm.  Public Strategies Impact has grown to one of the largest and most influential lobbying firms in New Jersey history.

While efforts by some Republicans to get Bodman to run for office over the years were unsuccessful, he has been a major fundraiser for GOP candidates over the years.

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