Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Another Kean Looking to Go Places in NJ


Two decades ago, Republican Tom Kean was New Jersey's governor, and the state's most popular politician. Today, State Sen. Tom Kean has the US Senate in his crosshairs. The latter Kean is, of course, the son of his gubernatorial father. Kean Jr. has already announced his candidacy for Jon Corzine's United States Senate seat which could very well be in play, pending the results of this fall's gubernatorial election. (If Corzine wins, he will be able to appoint his successor in the Senate, who will serve out the remaining year of his term and then presumably be at least the Democratic front-runner in the November 2006 election for that seat.)

Kean's father won re-election in 1985 by the largest margin in any New Jersey gubernatorial race ever. The elder Kean has since served as President of Drew University in Madison, NJ, and was the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission. The lasting popularity and positive image of Kean's father, who intends to play a significant role in his son's campaign, gives him a leg up on any other contender. In addition, the image he has created for himself in Trenton and the banner he has operated under as a legislator will make him an interesting candidate to track.

He has carried the torch lit by his father who endorsed far-reaching campaign finance reform initiatives in his final State of the State address. Kean Jr. has been at the front of reform efforts, including his role as the leader of the movement to reform New Jersey's "Pay to Play" contracting setup, which is a hotbed for corruption. Kean is strong on environmental protection and, consequently, has made sprawl control a major issue. But it's his strong stance against corruption enforced through his work in Trenton and his family history of clean politics that could be hugely appealing to voters of many stripes in these dirty, corrupt times here.

Like his father, Kean Jr. is a moderate, and one whom Save the GOP refers to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). He certainly has a fighting chance in this state, which has a 7-6 (Democrats-Republicans) delegation in the House and which at some points last fall was polling as a swing state in the Presidential race. Acting Governor Codey is probably the only other potential candidate with real statewide name recognition (other than Corzine himself), and Kean seems to be a qualified, dedicated individual with youth and charisma. Still, his last name will be his biggest asset, and because of the light in which former Governor Kean is remembered, his boy can't be counted out next fall.

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