Rendo: Tom Kean’s ‘Politics of Inclusion,’ “Redux”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno’s selection of Carlos Rendo as her running mate for lieutenant governor was her best political decision of this campaign. My reasons for stating this, however, are somewhat different from those of other political pundits.
Certainly, Rendo will benefit the GOP ticket in the Cuban community and in Hudson County and Bergen County in general. His law practice base is in Hudson County, and his political base is in Bergen County, where he serves as mayor of Woodcliff Lake. He is well regarded in both counties.
Yet when I see and hear Carlos Rendo, something else comes to mind. He is the living embodiment of the “Politics of Inclusion” that symbolized the 1982-1990 administration of former Governor Tom Kean. To fully comprehend this, one must look at the career of Rendo’s first mentor, Jose Arango, currently the Hudson County GOP Chair.
Kean made this slogan of “The Politics of Inclusion” a reality by his remarkably effective outreach to not only all ethnic and racial constituencies but also to political outsiders. His ambassador for making the Politics of Inclusion the operating credo for GOP county and municipal organizations throughout the state was the late New Jersey Republican State Committee Chair Frank Holman. Plain and simple, Holman, a reserve Air Force General, Korean War veteran, and former Ocean County Administrator was the greatest NJGOP “street politician” I ever saw.
At the outset of the 1985 campaign, it was evident that Kean was going to win a massive historic landslide that would result in the election of a Republican Assembly as well. Holman saw this as an opportunity to win Assembly seats in areas previously deemed to be impossible.
With this in mind, Frank set his sights on Hudson County, specifically the 33rd legislative district. He worked very closely with the two GOP Assembly candidates, Jose Arango and Ron Dario, and on Election Day 1985, the Kean landslide enabled both to eke out narrow victories.
After the election, Jose functioned not only as an Assemblyman but also unofficially as Frank Holman’s eyes and ears in Hudson County. And the Politics of Inclusion has been Jose’s operating credo as a Republican player over the last 30 years. So when Carlos Rendo first appeared in Jose’s Assembly district office during his 1986-1988 tenure, it was natural that Jose’s first advice to him would be on the Politics of Inclusion.
Sadly, the Politics of Inclusion has been endangered in the New Jersey Republican Party by the prevalence of the politics of Donald Trump, whose core is ethnic, gender, and sexual preference intolerance, and the politics of Chris Christie, whose core is vindictiveness and retribution, as exemplified by Bridgegate. And this is where Carlos Rendo offers the NJGOP hope not only in this election but in the future as well.
Rendo rejected the abhorrent politics of Trump and Christie during the 2016 presidential race and instead opted for the candidacy of his fellow Cuban-American, Marco Rubio, a U.S. Senator representing the quintessence of the Politics of Inclusion. Unlike Trenton insider Sheila Oliver, Carlos is a true outsider, new and fresh. He will have the opportunity to excel in debate against her, and I have no doubt that he will rise to the challenge.
Kim Guadagno’s selection of Carlos Rendo, it itself, will not be sufficient to overcome Phil Murphy’s massive lead. In selecting Carlos Rendo, however, she has made a wise decision, getting her campaign off to a good start and demonstrating her determination to revive Tom Kean’s Politics of Inclusion and depart from the nightmarish ways of Trump and Christie Republicanism.
And regardless of the outcome, Carlos Rendo will continue to be an NJGOP player throughout the next decade.
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.
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