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As my readers know, since the early days of the Trump presidency, I no longer identify myself as a member of the Republican Party. While I will not join the Democratic Party, my GOP of Ronald Reagan, the two George Bushes, Gerald Ford, Tom Kean, Christie Whitman, and above all, Dwight David Eisenhower no longer exists. Instead, the Republican Party is now the party of a bigoted, misogynist, xenophobic, dictator-loving, parafascist President Trump and his sniveling cowardly GOP followers in the United States Senate.
As a result of my anti-Trump advocacy, I have lost many erstwhile Republican friends, and while in just one case I have some sadness in losing such a friend, I do not for one nanosecond regret any anti-Trump action on my part. I have been blessed by the Almighty with a wonderful family, and they have been totally supportive of my decision to put country over party by rejecting the parafascism of Donald Trump. That is especially true at a time when the world is witnessing the vile, disgraceful collaboration of unpatriotic Trump with the totalitarian North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un in defaming a former American vice-president, Joe Biden.
Yet I will always have warm, pleasant memories of my years of GOP activism. And none bring a smile to my face more rapidly than those of my friend, the late former New Jersey Republican State Chair Frank B. Holman, Jr. When I read the news that his son, Frank B. Holman, III was recently elected as Ocean County Republican Chair, it both made me feel happy and recall all those magnificent memories.
Frank Holman, Jr. was the master of the ground game, the king of the grass roots. There are still excellent ground game practitioners in both political parties in New Jersey, and these individuals usually know what are the key ethnic and gender constituencies that must be brought to the polls by a successful get-out-the-vote effort. Frank, Jr. was unique, however, both in his familiarity with the key players in these constituencies and his ability to communicate one-on-one with them.
In short, Frank, Jr. was the master “street politician” in the most laudatory sense of the term, and during his years of successful service to Tom Kean as NJGOP executive director and state chair, it seemed that he literally knew every street in the state as well. You could mention to him any municipality or county in New Jersey, and Frank Holman, Jr. could recite for you chapter and verse as to both the key players and issues in the location in question.
Yet it was Frank’s rare talent as a raconteur that more than anything else makes my memories of him indelible.
With Frank, Jr., the telephone conversation was always short and to the point, often followed by a meeting at one of Frank’s favorite restaurants, be it in Newark’s Ironbound section or at Chick’s in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, where Frank dined on his favorite dish, breast of veal. Once you arrived at the restaurant, you were in the presence of the master raconteur himself – Frank B. Holman, Jr.
His stories were informative and often hilarious at the same time. As an Orthodox Jew who observes the laws of Kashrut (kosher), I could never eat any of the foods at these establishments. It was worth foregoing my dinner, however, just to hear Frank tell his stories about the numerous political operatives and the Damon Runyon characters he had met throughout the years.
In the Woody Allen movie, Broadway Danny Rose, a group of Catskill comedians are sitting around the table at a Manhattan deli, each claiming to have “the best Danny Rose story”. I have my own favorite Frank Holman story, and while I am sure it is not the best, it gives me a warm feeling about my late friend to retell same.
It happened during the 1993 campaign of Christie Whitman for Governor. Frank was a master of ethnic politics, and he and I went together to meet with Rabbi Eleazer Mayer Teitz, the spiritual leader of the Elizabeth Orthodox Jewish community. While Rabbi Teitz did not commit himself to either candidate, he was most courteous. On the various Jewish community issues he discussed, he was far more knowledgeable than I – in fact, he was far more knowledgeable than anybody I knew. As we left the meeting, Frank said to me, in that unique Holmanian fashion, “He’s a real smart guy, Alan – you’re not going to b.s. him.” By the way, the initials b.s. in this context do not stand for “bachelor of science”!
Frank, Jr. was a man of patriotism and superb accomplishment. He served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War and continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve, eventually retiring as a brigadier general.
He had a distinguished career in government as well, serving with distinction as mayor of Jackson Township and as Ocean County administrator. While Frank viewed campaign politics as a competition and not as war, he understood that the candidates of the election season would become the office holders of tomorrow, and therefore, the candidates should be worthy of the office they would hold.
After Frank passed away in December, 2005, I attended his wake. When I saw the lines of people, it confirmed for me how many people felt fortunate to have known Frank – and loved him.
Yet more than anything else, the people who attended the wake knew the ultimate truth: Frank was a man of family. That is why his son’s election as Ocean County Republicans Chair would have made him so proud.
If you visit Frank’s Ocean County hometown of Jackson, you learn that the mother of Frank B. Holman, Jr., Lucy Holman, was an honored school teacher. Education is an essential Holman family virtue.
When I spoke with Frank B. Holman, III after his recent election as Ocean County Republican Chair, he emphasized that he would focus on two areas of outreach: Women and Young Republicans. He spoke with pride about the role his father played in the election of two eminent former Republican Assemblywomen from Ocean County, Hazel Gluck and Virginia “Ginny” Haines.
Frank III spoke with deep feeling about his father’s friendship with the late Republican State Assemblyman from Ocean County and fellow Jackson Township resident Melvin Cottrell. He said they conversed every day about ways to help people, including improving inter-ethnic relations. Frank III said that is a motivating factor for him to help bridge some of the rifts that have developed between the Lakewood Jewish community and neighboring constituencies.
Behind the sometimes gruff and always colorful exterior of Frank B. Holman, Jr. was a profound goodness and sense of decency. Frank B. Holman, III can never be as colorful as his father, and he wouldn’t even try. He does, however, have the same ultimate goodness and decency and desire to improve the lives of Ocean County residents. In a time of Trumpian Republican disaster, the continuation of the Holman legacy bodes well for the future of the Republican Party of Ocean County.
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 under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.