Kean Victory Will Put New Jersey GOP In National Spotlight, Leaders Say
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Gov. Thomas H. Kean’s landslide re-election that carried the GOP to control of the state Assembly for the first time in 14 years should give New Jersey more clout in national party politics, Republican leaders said Wednesday.
Kean, 50, was elected to a second four-year term Tuesday by the greatest margin in state history, trouncing Democrat Peter Shapiro, the 33-year-old Essex County executive who had sought to become the nation’s youngest governor.
Kean won 70 percent of the vote to Shapiro’s 30 percent by fracturing traditional Democratic voting quarters such as organized labor and ethnic groups.
Although Republicans generally expect to receive less than 10 percent of the black vote in the state, two polls of voters leaving polling places found that Kean received about 60 percent of the black vote.
″You’re not seeing realignment, but dealignment,″ said Mark Schulman, president of the New York firm of Schulman, Ronca and Bucuvalis, which conducted one poll, for the New Jersey Network. ″The political party is no longer at the center of people’s political thinking.″
Frank Fahrenkopf, Republican National Committee chairman, called Kean’s win ″one of the most successful political victories on the state level that has taken place in a long time in Republican politics.″
″I want to send a message to Washington that the Republican Party can do whatever it wants to do if it includes all the people in its plans,″ Kean said Wednesday.
Kean’s popularity spilled over to Assembly races, giving Republicans, for the first time since 1971, a 20-seat majority in the 80-member lower house. Democrats lost 14 Assembly seats as only one Republican failed to win re- election.
Kean had campaigned heavily for GOP legislative candidates on the premise that his agenda would fare better under Republican control. The Senate, which is not up for re-election until 1987, remains under Democratic control by a 23-17 margin.
Because of the Republican sweep, Kean said, New Jersey would have a ″lot to say″ in the future on the Republican platform.
At the White House, spokesman Larry Speakes said the ″significant thing″ about New Jersey’s election was the control the GOP gained in the Assembly.
Fahrenkopf said Kean’s win vaulted the governor to national prominence.
″I’m really excited because he really did well in the minority community, talking about jobs and economics and social justice, and that makes the Republican Party more attractive in the Northeast and across the country,″ said U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y.
State party members also touted Kean as a possible national contender.
’I think he would make a great president of the United States,″ said Frank Holman, chief of the Republican State Committee, who wore a button bearing the message ″Kean in ’88.″
But Kean said, ″I’m not aspiring to any other office.″
A Princeton-educated millionaire, Kean won with a better than 2-to-1 margin in all but seven of the state’s 21 counties.
Kean began his first of five Assembly terms in 1968 and became speaker of the Assembly in 1972. He lost a 1977 gubernatorial bid but won four years ago.
During Kean’s term, New Jersey’s unemployment rate fell from 9.3 percent to 4.4 percent, its small business climate rating rose from 20th to 10th nationwide and a minimum salary of $18,500 was established for public school teachers.
Much of his support this year came from traditionally Democratic quarters, including organized labor and ethnic groups in predominanty black Newark, the state’s largest city. Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., lent her support to his campaign.