5 years ago

Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

important.” So I said

important.” So I said to Brendan, “How about transportation?” He said, “Yes.” And that’s how I got to be commissioner of transportation. Q: I want to get to that in a second, but you mentioned Dennis Carey and his power in Essex County . What was his relation ong>withong> Brendan Byrne, and did he help Brendan? ong>Sagnerong>: I don’t recall that-- in fact, I think he and most of the old democrats supported, was it Ralph DeRose? Supported Ralph DeRose. Q: Why? Why didn’t they want Brendan? ong>Sagnerong>: Well, I really don’t know except that coming out of the prosecutor’s office, maybe he thought he really was serious about an honest government, and the people he had around him, like Dick Leone, Lew Kaden. I think that’s probably the reason. It’s only guessing. I really don’t know. Q: You said that Brendan was the ideal candidate in that he did everything he was asked to do, which suggests that deep down he wanted it badly. Was he relentless about pursuing this victory? ong>Sagnerong>: It’s hard to describe it. I mean, I think Brendan was a person who loved public life, and loved-- I know he did, and he enjoyed it once he was there. He knew that this was the career for him, and so he did everything that he had to do to win the office, and he deserved to win. Q: How was he as a public speaker back then? ong>Sagnerong>: On a score of one to ten, he was in the upper half. Q: Upper half. ong>Sagnerong>: But maybe six. He wasn’t Kennedy. First of all, he was a good-looking man, made a good appearance, conducting himself properly, and people were attracted to him. And he had the patience. I know that I would have him scheduled to be somewhere at eight then somewhere at nine that was a half-hour away, and at eight forty-five he was still detail talking to somebody. It’d drive me crazy. I was on the phone telling the host at the next party, “We’ll be there soon.” But Brendan would take the time to explain to people what they wanted to hear, which was a good thing, because it impressed people. Q: Did he enjoy it? ong>Sagnerong>: I think he did. I think he did. I think he likes people. I think he likes public image and public life. Q: Do you remember election night? ong>Sagnerong>: Not clearly. Not clearly. Q: Do you remember taking Brendan to meet high rollers? ong>Sagnerong>: During the campaign? Q: Yes. ong>Sagnerong>: On occasion, yes. This is an important thing about fundraising. There’s two things that you need to get big money. This was my same experience in UJA and hospital. I think the most effective fundraiser is somebody is somebody who himself shows that he believes in what he’s doing because he’s also given, and that was very effective. When I go and say to somebody, “I want you to give me 10 thousand dollars. I’ve given 25 or 30. Why -10

can’t you give me 10 thousand?” And I used that when I raised money for Brendan, when I used to raise money for Clinton and for Carter, and other campaigns that I’ve been in. And the other thing is some people want to meet the candidate. You raised a question that I really can’t answer. Whether they want to meet him because that’s something they want, to have a personal connection for for some future purpose, or whether they just want to be acquainted ong>withong> somebody. It’s hard to tell. But not everybody necessarily wanted to meet the candidates. Some people would do it on the basis they shared the objective of having a good person in office. Q: Some people find it difficult to ask for money. How was Brendan at that? ong>Sagnerong>: I don’t think he ever did the asking. I would never put him in that position, for him to ask for money. I would prospect who wants to meet the government, and then would ask them questions about what their interest in government was, or what particular idea they wanted the government to hear from then, or some questions they wanted the governor to answer for them. But I don’t recall ever putting the governor in a position where he had to ask somebody to give him money. That would not have been right. Q: There are many politicians today who get on the phone morning, noon and night and have no... ong>Sagnerong>: I get 10 calls a week. Q: You get 10 calls a week. So you know what I’m talking about. So Brendan was reluctant to... ong>Sagnerong>: We didn’t have that technique. I mean, that’s a relatively new technique, of the candidate getting on the phone and calling people. I don’t know that people were doing it in those days or not. We didn’t do it. We didn’t do it. Maybe if we’d have known about it we’d have done it, but it just wasn’t a technique we used. Q: You say that your technique was to say, “Look, I put up such-and-such amount of money. You could probably do this amount.” Did you put up for Brendan Byrne’s campaign? ong>Sagnerong>: Oh, yes. Q: A lot? ong>Sagnerong>: Yes. I signed notes for 100 thousand, 200 thousand dollars. Q: Signed notes. To someone who doesn’t know how money works, what does that mean to sign a note? ong>Sagnerong>: Well, I went to-- it was a Fidelity, was the bank... Q: First Fidelity? ong>Sagnerong>: First Fidelity, and said, “We need money. I need 250 thousand dollars. Give us the money; I’ll sign a note that if the campaign doesn’t pay you back, I’ll pay you.” Q: Did the campaign raise enough to pay those loans off? ong>Sagnerong>: Yeah, they were all paid off. Q: So Brendan wins, and I gather from other interviews we’ve done that it really wasn’t much of a race once he won the primary. ong>Sagnerong>: Well, no. The primary was the big fight. Q: Sandman was easy. -11

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