Gordon on Gordon: Senate Retirement Reflections

Gordon

BY GAIL GORDON

State Senator Bob Gordon resigned from his Senate seat this afternoon. 

Most in the 38th district, particularly in his beloved hometown of Fair Lawn, know Bob as a low-key, affable elected official — more interested in policy than politics.  He embodies the very kind of public servant we’ve lost sight of in this era of sound bites and trash talking.  

In 2013, during a scorching battle for re-election against a popular Republican bolstered by a soaring-in-the-polls Chris Christie, Christie said to a standing-room-only rally of Democrat Gordon, “I can’t stand him.”  He referred to him on more than one occasion as a “wimp.” 

The Governor was mistaken.  He was wrong, not in his perception of Senator Gordon as mild-mannered, but in his inability to distinguish the difference between being a “wimp” and being a gentleman.  Bob modeled his legislative leadership on the gentlemanly qualities of powerhouse Democrats from a bi-gone era,  giants like Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson and Tip O’Neill.  

A gentleman, in his mind, is one who could respectfully and effectively reach across the aisle to achieve results for New Jerseyans not attainable through fiat.   He easily called Republican Senator Joe Kyrillos his best friend in the Senate and achieved bi-partisan results with colleagues like Senators Kevin O’Toole, Steve Oroho and Kip Bateman — all Republican.   

The 2010 Congressional redistricting made the 38th District, 13 towns that include Paramus,  Bergenfield and Fair Lawn,  the most competitive legislative district in the state — resulting in brutal re-election efforts in 2011, 2013 and 2017.  Instead of relying on the current trends in slick polling and micro-targeting, he took his case directly to the voters, knocking on over 7,000 doors in each campaign, sacrificing 17 pairs of shoes and succumbing to 4 dog bites, (though he still loves dogs).  He won all three gritty elections and made the 38th a safe blue district against all odds.  So much for wimpy. 

Perhaps the most lasting legacy of his Senate tenure will be reform of the NY/NJ Port Authority.  In partnership with his life-long friend and mentor Senator Loretta Weinberg, (who no one would EVER call a wimp), the current sessions of the New York and New Jersey Legislatures, which are required to approve perfectly identical bills when it comes to the PA, are widely-anticipated to pass long overdue reform of the agency.  This extraordinary effort began years ago with a press conference challenging the Port Authority’s toll increases which were recommended with neither adequate public hearing or citizen input.  The sunlight brought upon this agency via their efforts, and further magnified by The Record’s investigations, revealed a fiefdom plagued by scandal and inefficiency.  

It’s easy to forget today that good people go into public service not for personal gain, but to make a difference.  Several years ago I was trying to reconcile the family checkbook, (a practice I have long since abandoned!), and found a deficit for which I could not account.  After repeated (and heated) questioning, Bob finally admitted that he had become so frustrated with his inability to get public assistance for an elderly indigent widow new to the area, that he had been paying her electric bills personally, and anonymously.

My husband, Bob Gordon, resigned from the State Senate this afternoon.  He leaves the Legislature in a much, much better place.  He will be missed. 

Gail Gordon is an Attorney, Republican and the wife of Bob Gordon, newly-appointed Commissioner to the Board of Public Utilities by Governor Phil Murphy. 

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