Former Gov. Tom Kean has done a “disservice to every single woman who wants to enter politics,” says Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono. Kean had patronizingly dismissed Buono, a state senator who has served 20 years in the Legislature, as a “nice lady” who is “unqualified” to be governor.
Buono was New Jersey’s first woman state Senate majority leader and first head of the powerful state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Kean, a Republican and strong supporter of Gov. Chris Christie, made the comments in a weekly column in The Star-Ledger in which he and former Gov. Brendan Byrne are paid to respond to questions from an anonymous newspaper questioner.
In answer to a reporter’s question later in the day, Buono answered Kean’s comment:
“For years, the political class in New Jersey, made up mostly of males, have had no problem with casually just dismissing and marginalizing women when they want to get involved and contribute to the political process here in New Jersey.
” Over the years (the attitude has) become discredited, but I can tell you that it’s gone into the backrooms now and former Gov Kean’s comments underscore the fact that it’s still a prevalent attitude. That kind of attitude is outdated, it’s (an) anachronism, and it does a disservice not only to me, I think it does a disservice to every single woman who wants to enter politics who is thinking about breaking the barrier that exists in New Jersey politics to achieve higher levels of service.
” I think it’s very unfortunate and it saddens me that he would say that. I am sixty years old, I have been involved in politics for 20 years — I have broken some barriers: I was the first woman majority leader, first woman to chair the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and for him to say that I lack qualifications, to me, is terrible.”
The comments of Kean, 78, and former Gov. Brendan Byrne, 89, appear every week in an editorial department feature entitled “Kean & Byrne: A Dialogue.” The questions are posed days earlier in a telephone conference and transcribed, edited, and posted by The Star-Ledger’s editorial staff.
The question provoking Kean’s gaffe appeared to try to provide some sort of backhanded justification for The Star-Ledger’s odd and widely criticized endorsement of Christie that followed a long recitation of Christie’s flaws, calling him a “fraud” and a “catastrophe.” The question seemed to suggest that, despite Christie’s flaws, he must have some sort of magnetism that attracts people–including, apparently, editorial writers. The question and Kean’s answer follow:
“The Star-Ledger endorsed Christie, despite disliking much of what he has done. Do some politicians just have a personal attraction that draws even ideological opponents to them?”
KEAN: “It isn’t the contest. Barbara Buono is a nice lady, but not a strong candidate and not qualified to be governor. People understand that.”