Longtime New Jersey Republican James Cafiero dies at 94

 August 5, 2023

New Jersey Republicans were saddened last week to learn that longtime state politician James S. Cafiero passed away on Friday at the age of 94.

The New Jersey Globe noted that "Cafiero grew up in politics," with his father having served as prosecutor, judge, state senator, and delegate to the New Jersey Constitutional Convention in 1947.

Cafiero became state Senate minority leader four years after taking his seat

Cafiero attended the Lawrenceville School and Princeton University and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

He then became assistant Cape May County Prosecutor before winning election to the New Jersey Assembly and later the state Senate in 1972.

That led him to quickly become chairman of the state Senate Joint Appropriations Committee, making him "the third most powerful post in the legislature behind Senate President Alfred Beadleston (R-Red Bank) and Assembly Speaker Thomas Kean (R-Livingston)."

Cafiero then rose four years later to become state Senate minority leader and led opposition to New Jersey adopting an income tax.

Former judge and GOP leader calls Cafiero as "a legend"

Although Cafiero decided to step back from electoral politics in 1981, he went on to make another successful Senate run in 1990.

His closest race came a decade later when he managed to achieve reelection by just 441 votes, winning 50.4% to his opponent's 49.6%.

The Press of Atlantic City reported that former Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue previously served as the chairman of the Cape May County Republican Party, and he had warm words for Cafiero.

"Jimmy Cafiero’s a legend. There’s no bigger political figure in my lifetime. He was a real mentor to me. I’m going to miss him terribly," Cafiero was quoted as saying.

Ocean City mayor praises Cafiero's "remarkable career of public service"

The Press noted that Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian also praised Cafiero in an email sent on Friday to local residents, saying, "Jim served as our state senator for 24 years and also as a state assemblyman and assistant county prosecutor."

"Please join me and Michele (Gillian) in recognizing a remarkable career of public service and extending deepest condolences to Jim’s family and friends," the mayor added.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Globe editor David Wildstein tweeted that he was "[s]ad to learn of the passing of former Senate Minority Leader James Cafiero, whom I'd known for 50 years."

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