Bill Kohm, legendary NJ political insider and lobbyist from the 1950s to the 1990s, dies at 92

William J. Comb, the legendary and influential New Jersey lobbyist and former reporter who advised some of the state’s most powerful Republicans for 50 years and served as Clerk of the New Jersey Legislature in 1956 and 1957. Died December 31st. was 92.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Comm became a reporter for the Hudson Dispatch, beginning a nine-year stint as North Jersey Bureau Chief for the Newark Evening News.

After the 1955 election, Republicans in Congress chose 25-year-old Comb as the new Congressional Clerk.

The part-time post at $7,000 a year ($74,237 in today’s dollars after adjusting for inflation) was the highest patronage position in parliament at the time and served on the six-man Bergen delegation since 1943. . He was selected by the Bergen Republican Policy Committee to replace former Bergen County freeowner Glen He Rock Mayor William Ludlum. At the time, Comb was the youngest state clerk in state history.

In addition to serving as Congressional Secretary, Comb was also on the top staff of the Bergen County Republican Organization. In 1957, he married Norma his Fictor, who was secretary to Secretary of State Walter H. Jones (Republican Norwood). They were married for 63 years until her death in 2020.

The Democrats won control of Congress in 1957 and succeeded Comb as the Democratic mayor of the South Borough of Newark and a two-time Democratic nominee for Representative Robert W. Keene (Republican Livingston). His 1987 murder of Dudkin remains unsolved.

In 1958, Comb missed a chance to become a Bergen County grand jury clerk and got a job working for Jones on the New Jersey Legislative Commission investigating the Board of Legalized Chance Games and local garbage collection. board.

William J. Comb (left) and Congressman Robert W. Keene (R-Livingston), 1958.

In July 1958, he participated in Keane’s campaign for the United States Senate in what is today considered a regional communications director. That was after Jones backed Keane’s primary opponent, former White House Chief Cabinet Secretary Bernard Shanley.

Keane was the leading candidate for the vacant seat for outgoing U.S. Senator H. Alexander Smith, but President Dwight Eisenhower’s second midterm elections saw a wave of Democrats, and former Congressman Harrison Williams (D-Plainfield) was 51. Reversed by a % difference. -47% margin.

After the election, Comb served as Jones’ administrative assistant (now called chief of staff) and executive director of the Bergen County Republican Organization. In 1961, Comb helped lead Jones’ unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Comb opened Comb Associates, a public relations firm in Hackensack, shortly after Senate Majority Leader Jones lost the primary to former US Secretary of Labor James P. Mitchell by a 44%-35% margin. . His first client was the Bergen County Republican Organization. In 1962, Senate Majority Leader Charles Sandmann (R-Elma) named him Press Secretary and Spokesperson for the Republican Party in the Senate, in an era before there was a partisan staff in the New Jersey Legislature.

In 1963, Comb presided over one of the epic legislative races in state history to convert the seats in the Essex County Senate from Democrats to Republicans.

Democrats removed second-term incumbent Sen. decided to replace him.

The Republicans nominated Congressional Minority Leader C. Robert Salkone (Republican-Newark). This was the only time in New Jersey’s history that the sitting Speaker of the House and a minority leader faced off for a state Senate seat. Sarcone defeated Matthews with 15,902 votes, 51%-44%, while Congressman George Richardson (D-Newark) won his 4% share of the vote as an independent and was the only black member of Congress.

After Shanley became a senator candidate again in 1964, Comm joined the campaign as a campaign strategist and spokesperson. Williams defeated Shanley in his second term bid.

In 1965, Comb faced setbacks in the Republican Legislative House, where Democratic Governor Richard J. Hughes led by 13 percent in Bergen County, losing six of the county’s seven seats and four state senators. bottom. Comb gave up his contract with the Bergen GOP in 1966.

That year, Combs and Democrat Joseph W. Katz worked together as press assistants for the 1966 New Jersey Constitutional Convention.

In 1968, Comb became director of New Jersey’s bureau for Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination for the Republican presidential nomination. The following year, she served as director of communications for South Jersey Rep. William Cahill, who was elected Governor of New Jersey. Cahill named his Kohm to his transition staff.

After Cahill took office, Kohom’s firm became the state’s largest contract lobbying group, with a huge number of private and public sector clients, including the newly formed New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. . Kohm also acquired his Attitude Analysis Research Services, a Paramus-based polling firm.

In 1986, Comb co-founded Public Strategies with Harold Hodes, a Democrat and former Chief of Staff to Governor Brendan Byrne. His firm included James McQueen, another Hudson-Dispatch reporter-turned-politician, who later turned his lobbying shop into Governor Tom Keene’s campaign manager and cabinet. It merged with a company led by former Republican Roger Bodman, forming a huge public strategic impact. He retired in 1993.

He is survived by his daughter, granddaughter and sister.

A memorial service will be held at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Haworth on Saturday 14 January 2023.

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