A Kean on the Ballot? What Else Is New?

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One of Thomas H. Kean Jr.’s earliest political memories is watching his father, Gov. Thomas H. Kean Sr., deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in 1988, when George H. W. Bush was nominated for president.

Now, Mr. Bush is one of many of the former governor’s powerful friends helping support the younger Mr. Kean’s bid to unseat Senator Robert Menendez, as patrimony has helped propel a relatively inexperienced state legislator into one of the tightest races in the country. Some Democrats here even complain that Republicans are trying to confuse voters into thinking that the popular former governor and chairman of the 9/11 Commission is running, not his 38-year-old son.

After all, Keans have been on the ballot here almost as long as there have been ballots.

“When my dad ran for Congress — and he had been the Assembly speaker — the headline said, ‘Kean’s son to run for Congress,’ ” said Mr. Kean, now a state senator. “When my grandfather ran for Congress in 1938, there was a headline that said, ‘Kean’s son to run for Congress.’ When my great-grandfather ran for Senate, I think there was a headline that said, ‘Kean’s brother to run for Senate,’ because his older brother had served in the United States Senate.

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