SOMERSET – Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) alighted on the carpet in the foyer of Lincoln Gardens Baptist Church and delighted in the fact that Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) had to lean on senate caucus colleagues to write a cease and desist letter to New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) President Marie Blistan.
“I feel really good about LD3, where we have a great candidate and a great message,” Kean told InsiderNJ, referring to Republican Fran Grenier, who has the support of the NJEA. “I think it’s a very close race evidenced by the letter that reeks of desperation. It’s a very strong signal that Fran is doing a great job as a candidate.”
Kean said he has multiple strong candidates down ballot in place for Nov. 7th, noting in particular LD2, LD3, LD14 and LD38.
“Chris Brown – he’s going to win that race,” he said of Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2), who faces state Senator-elect Colin Bell.
Democrats tapped Bell to assume the seat of the late Senator Jim Whelan.
“We’re al working a strong partnership with the lieutenant governor and the NJGOP,” said Kean. “I’m very optimistic that we’re going to pick up seats.”
InsiderNJ asked him if he sees the possibility of Republicans playing a role in the selection of a senate president, especially if Grenier and the GOP fail to knock off the senate president on Election Day.
“Everybody plays to win,” said Kean, unwilling to acknowledge that he has a particular interest in eradicating old rival Sweeney from Trenton.
But it’s not true, InsiderNJ argued. Governor Chris Christie, for example, did not play to win in 2013 in Sweeney’s district, preferring to campaign elsewhere rather than give a boost to Kean’s handpicked candidate Nikki Trunk. If Sweeney prevails, will Kean and his caucus of presumably 16 or 15 members be allowed to pick the next senate president, or should the GOP strike a deal with the Senator Richard Codey (D-27) wing of the Democratic caucus in order to deny Sweeney?
His father did it to become speaker of the General Assembly, reaching across the aisle to welcome the help of Democratic lawmakers to catapult him, can’t the son?
“Let’s all focus on the present tense,” Kean said. “One of the reasons we focused on LD3 four years ago is we realized at that time that Steve was one of the bottom performers in every cycle. We realized the district was trending away from him and that was reinforced by the fact with President Trump won his district. LD3 is one of two districts Trump won in New Jersey that is represented by a Democrat. My focus has always been to grow the Republican caucus.”