The man who would be Kean: The Senate minority leader’s 1985 road map to victory

In a Thursday memo to his Senate Republican Caucus, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-21) said he sees a chance to regain the upper house majority by capitalizing on Democratic Party vulnerability.

Democrats own a 24-16 edge in the Senate now and possess a map heavily weighted to their advantage. But with Gov. Chris Christie polling strong, Kean envisions the incumbent Republican governor replaying Kean’s father’s 1985 pounding of Peter Shapiro and using the margin to exact Senate victories.

In Kean’s memo obtained by, the Senate minority leader sees his best chances for pickups in 1, 2, 3, 14 and 38 to regain a majority; but if history repeats, he sees opportunities for greater gains, with at least 12 Democratic districts in play.

“Despite its explicit design to protect incumbent members and give a greater percentage of legislative seats to Democrats than their statewide vote totals warrant, the new legislative map does offer hope when viewed in historical context,” Kean wrote in the memo.

Although the Senate was not up for re-election in 1985, Republicans effectively ran the table; winning Assembly seats in areas as traditionally Democrat as Hudson County, districts where Republican candidates received about 35 percent of the vote in the 1983 midterms, Kean notes.

“On top of the historic Hudson County victories, Republicans swept four other districts where they had received between 39.76%-45.38% of the vote previously, wiping away many preconceptions of those districts as political locks for the Democrats and sweeping away incumbents who in 1983 coasted to re-election,” the Senate minority leader wrote. “Republicans picked up two additional seats in separate districts, flipping an Assembly Republican minority with 36 seats after the 1983 midterm elections to a commanding 50-seat Assembly Republican majority after the 1985 Republican wave.

“It is most important to note,” he added, “Republican pickup districts in 1985 were not ones that had been all that close in the 1983 low turnout midterm elections. The gubernatorial year turnout helped the Republican vote share swing at least 6.62% and up to nearly 21%. These pick up districts averaged a 13.2% growth in Republican vote share.”

The Senate minority leader said the numbers suggest a new majority is within reach, assuming the GOP commits to “strong, well funded campaigns and capitalizing on the Governor’s popularity as Republicans did in 1985.”

The top opportunity districts show the possibility of districts projecting a 6% GOP vote growth, the first level of district pickups in 1985, Kean said.

“With the successful re-election of our 16 Senate Republicans, these five seats alone (1, 2, 3, 14 and 38) are enough to build a new majority,” wrote Kean. “These are districts that, even in non-gubernatorial years, should remain realistic targets for Republicans with enough campaign resources.”

Kean cites as “wave opportunity districts” a second level of districts projecting a 13% GOP vote growth, within range of the swing produced in 1985’s Bergen/Passaic based District 36.

GOP DEM GOP % Swing % Needed

LD1 20857 24557 45.93% 4.07%

LD2 20997 24075 46.59% 3.41%

LD3 20197 25299 44.39% 5.61%

LD4 14569 23868 37.90% 12.10%

LD5 13444 17712 43.15% 6.85%

LD6 15415 25297 37.86% 12.14%

LD14 21176 26206 44.69% 5.31%

LD15 10900 21512 33.63% 16.37%

LD17 8715 15507 35.98% 14.02%

LD18 13042 19631 39.92% 10.08%

LD19 9232 18632 33.13% 16.87%

LD20 4052 12510 24.47% 25.53%

LD22 10024 16104 38.36% 11.64%

LD27 16741 27089 38.20% 11.80%

LD28 4519 14781 23.41% 26.59%

LD29 1598 9076 14.97% 35.03%

LD31 2836 13275 17.60% 32.40%

LD32 3312 16413 16.79% 33.21%

LD33 3136 20223 13.43% 36.57%

LD34 4386 17118 20.40% 29.60%

LD35 4867 14386 25.28% 24.72%

LD36 11055 18582 37.30% 12.70%

LD37 9980 23141 30.13% 19.87%

LD38 19745 22299 46.96% 3.04%

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