Tomorrow is our state primary, and after reading some Facebook posts on one of our neighborhood pages written by someone who wanted to vote for one person in the Democratic party and another in the Republic party, I was reminded of an election when both Dad and I faced the same quandary. Our solution was for each of us to choose a different party. I do not recall who the Democratic candidate was that we wanted to ensure made it to the general election in November (It may have been the man who would become governor, Brendan Byrne), but I remember that the Republican candidate was a feisty older woman named Millicent Fenwick who loved to smoke cigars.
What was it so many years later about this woman, I wondered today, so I went to the Google machine for the answers? She was quite an interesting politician, but as a Republican during that time, I do not see her fitting in with today’s party. She followed the traditional party’s view as a fiscal conservative, but her Congressional biography said she had a “lifelong commitment to liberal activism on behalf of consumers, racial minorities, human rights advocacy, women’s rights, and dedication to campaign finance reform.” She even voted against her House GOP colleagues 48 percent of the time.
A writer in the NY Times, Bruce Lambert, recalled that “during a debate in the New Jersey assembly over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a colleague told her: ‘I just don’t like this amendment. I’ve always thought of women as kissable, cuddly and smelling good.’ Fenwick retorted, ‘That’s the way I feel about men, too. I only hope for your sake that you haven’t been disappointed as often as I have.’ ”
I miss the days when we had outspoken Republican politicians of character who were not afraid to speak their mind. No wonder Dad and I had to split our vote that year. One of us had to make sure she stayed on the ballot.