Election Day, 2021: A Date with Destiny for Three Chairs: LeRoy Jones, Jr., Sean Earlen, and Bob Hugin


Today, Election Day in New Jersey, November 2, 2021 is a date with destiny for three chairs:  1) LeRoy Jones, Jr., New Jersey State Democratic Chair; 2) Sean Earlen, Burlington County Republican Chair; and 3) Bob Hugin, State Republican Chair.

I have given each in the following three brief summaries a title that symbolizes their place and reputation in the world of New Jersey politics:

LeRoy Jones, Jr., The Roberto Clemente of New Jersey Politics

My birthplace and the city of my roots is Pittsburgh.  Naturally, my favorite baseball player growing up was Roberto Clemente, right fielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bob Prince, the late, beloved broadcaster of the Buccos, used to say about Roberto, “He can do it all: Run, field, throw, hit, hit with power.”  All these skills made Roberto the greatest defensive right fielder who ever lived and the second greatest offensive right fielder (only behind Henry Aaron).

And LeRoy Jones, Jr. is the Roberto Clemente of New Jersey politics. He has done it all superbly, in all three sectors of the political world, to wit, 1) governmental service; 2) private sector governmental affairs representative; and  3) partisan political campaign operative or candidate.

Jones served with excellent distinction at the local level as City Administrator of East Orange, at the county level as a member of the Essex County Board of Freeholders, and at the state level as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly.

Jones developed an excellent reputation for effective governmental affairs representation, both as a public affairs manager at Public Service Electric and Gas and as the founding partner of 1868 Public Affairs, a highly prestigious Trenton lobbying and public affairs firm.

Yet as a political operative and partisan candidate, LeRoy Jones is virtually without peer.  He possesses the ideal combination of public policy insight, political instinct, and communication skills that have won him universal plaudits thus far as New Jersey Democratic Chair and his simultaneous service as Essex County Democratic Chair.

In Campaign 2021, LeRoy Jones’s primary focus has been on getting out the Democratic vote.  He has managed a robust Get-Out-the-Vote effort featuring national surrogate Democratic notables, intensive door-to-door contact, and comprehensive digital communication.  One can never predict how effective a GOTV program will be.  There is no doubt, however, that Jones has left nothing to chance.

After the anticipated Murphy victory today, Jones will certainly receive his justifiable share of praise.  Democrats throughout the state will clamor for his continued service as state Democratic chair.  He probably will agree to continue in that role, but the question is whether he may have a focus in addition to his two-hat service as state and Essex County Democratic chairs.

For example, will Jones focus primarily on the possibility of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka becoming the first African-American governor of New Jersey?  Will he play a significant role in a Phil Murphy for President campaign?  Or will he consider a return to government if Phil Murphy decides that he wants Jones to serve in his Cabinet?

It is never boring to follow the continuing success story of LeRoy Jones, Jr.  Stay tuned.

Sean Earlen:  The Politics of GOP Hope in Burlington County

Not too long ago, Burlington County was a solid Republican red county.  Finally, after years of incessant effort by the South Jersey George Norcross- led Democratic forces to breach the wall of the seemingly impregnable Burlington GOP fortress, the Republicans finally lost control of the Burlington County Board of Commissioners in 2018.

In this election, the Republicans have a real possibility of embarking on the comeback road if Republican Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield defeats incumbent Republican-turned-Democrat Senator Dawn Addiego for the 8th District Senate Seat.

And the role that Burlington GOP chair Sean Earlen is playing in rebuilding the county Republican Party may well enhance Stanfield’s victory prospects.

Earlen is only 34 and already a successful business executive.  He is grassroots focused and is committed to a strategy of town-by-town GOP recovery.  He also possesses environmental expertise, a key issue in South Jersey.  In short, Sean Earlen has come to symbolize the politics of GOP hope in Burlington County.

Earlen has already taken a giant step to remove the albatross of Trump toxicity from the Burlington County GOP. Immediately after the Trump-inspired January 6, 2021 insurrection, Sean, together with Stanfield and GOP Assemblyman Ryan Peters unequivocally repudiated this Trumpian traitorous activity.  Sean thus established his own inspirational patriotism and good judgment.  A Stanfield victory today will also be an augury of Sean Earlen as a coming NJGOP superstar.


Bob Hugin: An outstanding New Jersey citizen, but totally miscast as a Jersey politician

Any listing of the finest New Jersey citizens would have to include Bob Hugin in the top five.

He is a man of supreme accomplishment.  In the academic world, he received a full scholarship from Princeton and earned the cherished Princeton Bachelor of Arts degree, followed by an MBA from the University of Virginia.  His patriotism is unsurpassed, as proven by his seven years as a US Marine Corps infantry officer.  As CEO of Celgene, he proved himself to be the top biotech CEO in the nation.

On top of all this, Bob Hugin is a splendid family man.  He can be most proud of his family.

Like many highly successful business executives, Bob Hugin thought he would find additional fulfillment from success in the political world.  Immediately, he proved to be a prodigious fundraiser.  He sought something more in his candidacy for the US Senate in 2018 against Bob Menendez and in his current role as New Jersey Republican chair.  In both roles, he again achieved fundraising success.  But he experienced humiliating defeat against Bob Menendez in 2018, and the election today will almost certainly show a total failure on his part to improve the stature of the GOP in New Jersey.

The same factor accounts for both Bob Hugin’s failure as a political candidate and party leader:  He is totally without political instinct.  His defeat by Bob Menendez in 2018 was particularly humiliating.  Because of the legal problems affecting Bob Menendez at that time, he was considered to be one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democratic senators in the nation.  Yet due to Bob Hugin’s lack of political instinct, he lost to Bob Menendez by an 11-point landslide margin.

While Bob Hugin could never be elected to high office in New Jersey, he would make a superb appointee by a New Jersey governor to a high-level position, such as chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  The problem for Bob Hugin is that he is already 67 years old, and by the time New Jersey elects a Republican governor, he may well be 87.

Will Bob Hugin continue to serve as NJGOP state chair after this election?  In the words of the late, great New York Yankee broadcaster Melvin Albert Israel, a/k/a Mel Allen, we shall see what we shall see.

Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

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One response to “Election Day, 2021: A Date with Destiny for Three Chairs: LeRoy Jones, Jr., Sean Earlen, and Bob Hugin”

    Learn something new every day. Sean Earlen, never heard of him.
    LeRoy Jones, Jr., yes.

    And then there is Bob Hugin.
    I can overlook not being political savvy, lacking that quality myself.
    I find it difficult to forget those cruel, vicious attack ads, Hugin used
    in his 2018 Senatorial Campaign. To spend millions of his personal
    fortune on ads of that demeaning quality shows a complete lack of
    common sense, and I would add, common decency.
    It is beyond humiliating.

    Top 5…….I couldn’t be more surprised.
    I might put the columnist in the top 5, but Bob Hugin …NO

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