The battle of the billionaires

One of the best legislative contests of the 20th century came in 1955, when two future billionaires faced off to represent Somerset County in the New Jersey State Senate. The Republican incumbent, magazine publisher Malcom S. Forbes, defeated industrialist Charles W. Englehard, Jr. by just 370 votes, 19,981 to 19,611.

Forbes launched his political career four years earlier, at age 31, when he mounted a massive door-to-door campaign to defeat the incumbent, Freas L. Hess, in the Republican primary. Hess, 55, who had the backing of the Somerset GOP organization, had won a Senate seat in 1947 after nine years in the Assembly that included terms as Speaker and Majority Leader.

Forbes spent his first year in the Senate organizing a drive to draft General Dwight Eisenhower to sek the 1952 Republican presidential nomination — over 30,000 New Jerseyans signed petitions in support of Eisenhower — and almost immediately began his campaign to run for Governor in 1953.

The race to succeed two-term GOP Governor Alfred Driscoll attracted ten other candidates: Senate President Samuel Bodine of Hunterdon County, former Congressman Clifford Case, State Senator Alfred Clapp of Essex County, state Conservation and Economic Development Commissioner Charles Erdman, State Senator Kenneth Hand of Union County, State Treasurer Walter Margetts, former New Brunswick Mayor Frederick Richardson, Assemblyman Fred Shepard of Union County (a conservative who headed Ohio Senator Robert Taft's campaign in New Jersey), Republican State Committee Finance Chairman Webster Todd (the father of future Governor Christine Todd Whitman), and New Jersey Turnpike Authority Chairman Paul Troast. Alvin Van Schoick, a 74-year-old caddy from Long Branch, and Charles Klein, a guard at Rahway State Prison, were also in the race.

"I’m an undertaker by trade, so when I bury somebody, they don’t come back."
—Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato