Tom Kean’s sexism: The “nice lady” responds. With class.

Barbara Buono
Barbara Buono

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 That kind of attitude is outdated, it’s (an) anachronism, and it does a disservice not only to me, I think it does a disservice to every single woman who wants to enter politics who is thinking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.”


  1. I guess the old white guys (party bosses) are following the lead of the really old white guys (Kean/Byrne). All of these guys have been disrespecting (euphemism) Barbara Buono from the start. Ds across the state–who “endorsed” Christie–insulted not only Senator Buono, but all women and in the most unseemly way, betrayed their party.

    1. I could not agree more! There is a backlash against women and minorities that is at the core of the Republican Party and the Christie administration. Voter suppression, talking about limiting the right to birth control (in 2013!!), still fighting about and limiting abortion, NO women in the NJ Congressional delegation…..Who would have predicted this for 2013??!

  2. We are seeing in 2013 reactionary politics at the state and national levels. The sexism of white guys in all levels in New Jersey and the racism of white guys in the US House and Senate (and many state houses in addition to that in Trenton) are of a piece, a reaction to the advances of the civil rights and women’s movements. They think they’ve defeated labor (and they might be right) and now they’re targeting women and people of color. If they beat back the advances of women and people of color, you can expect black and female conservatives to lose their usefulness to the forces of reaction and be themselves pushed off stage.

    Bob Braun: Scary as it sounds, I think you’re right.

    1. What you say is dead on. I think we should call these old white guys–especially the Rs–exactly what they are: sexist and racist. The fact that they are so blatantly showing this reveals their insufferable arrogance. And we need to start saying this out loud and often.

  3. […] of his pieces he’s cross-posting at Blue Jersey. Welcome, Bob. – Rosi Cross-posted with Bob Braun’s Ledger. Former Gov. Tom Kean has done a “disservice to every single woman who wants to enter […]

  4. Its not just republicans- the Dem old boy network is sickening.

    I’ve seen how male senators openly interact and literally shun Buono in the informal conversation that typically precedes a Senate committee hearing or floor session.

    It is OBVIOUS and they don’t feel in any way vulnerable for this kind of behavior and feel any need to correct it.

    Never mind the back room, they are sexist pigs openly and with impunity.

    1. and you, too, are dead on.

  5. but somehow it was ok for her to say “man up” to c.c.

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