Candace L. Straight

Candace L. Straight, a savvy investment banker and film producer, zealous advocate for the election of
women candidates for state and local office across the nation, and a popular Republican fundraiser, died
on June 13 after a short illness. She was 73.
With an enormous network of faithful friends and an extraordinary passion for the political arena,
Straight was a force in New Jersey politics for nearly 40 years. She played a key role in the election of
Christine Todd Whitman as governor of New Jersey in 1993 and 1997 and held positions in the
administrations of three governors.
“Candy was one of those truly special people who, once a friend, was a friend forever. She was my
friend and a genuinely good person. She was an early and important supporter of my political career, a
fun golf partner, a passionate supporter of Rutgers, a successful movie producer, and so much more,”
Whitman said. “Her support for women and their rightful place in the world was a driving force in her
life. I will miss her sage counsel, advice, and friendship.”
Among the many women Straight helped run for office was Susan Collins, who ran for governor of
Maine in 1994 and then won a U.S. Senate seat in 1996.
“Candy Straight has been a dear friend, invaluable mentor, and close political adviser to me during my
entire time as an elected official,” Collins told the New Jersey Globe. “As she did with so many other
women, Candy encouraged me to take the leap to run for public office 27 years ago. I could always
count on her friendship and support. I am so sad to learn of her passing and will miss her so much.”
At a young age, Straight fought gender biases in pursuit of a career in finance. Offered a secretarial
position after her graduation from Wilson College, Straight persevered to get a job on Wall Street. She
worked at Banker’s Trust while earning her MBA from New York University and rose from an entry-level
analyst job to the position of vice president.
Straight held positions with Fortune 500 corporations like Merck & Co. She was a principal at John Head
and Partners, a merchant bank that specialized in the insurance industry.
During Straight’s freshman year of college in 1966, her father, Leroy O. Straight, died at age 43. She
spent much of her life as a devoted daughter and sister. She left her full-time work in New York in the
1990s to take her younger brother, Dwight, who was intellectually disabled, on trips across the world
before his death in 2000. Her mother, Dorothy – affectionately referred to as “Mother” by national and
local political leaders – died in 2007.
A lifelong resident of Bloomfield, Straight was proud of her political roots – especially that her
grandmother, Dorothea C. Jewkes, became the first woman to serve on the Bloomfield Township
Council when she won in 1956.
After Whitman defeated Gov. Jim Florio in 1993, Straight served on the governor’s Budget Advisory
Committee. She also served on Mayor-elect Rudy Giuliani’s Transition Budget Advisory Committee in
New York City.
Straight was nominated to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority by Whitman and served from
1994 to 2003, during the heyday of the authority, and spent seven years as vice chair. Gov. Thomas Kean appointed her to the Public Employees Retirement System board in 1982 and she held the post for
six years.
Gov. Chris Christie named Straight to the Rutgers University Board of Governors in 2010. She held that
post until 2016. She was part of the team that negotiated legislation in 2012 to realign Rutgers, Rowan
University, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
She became a candidate for Essex County Executive in 2002 after the incumbent, James Treffinger,
eschewed a bid for re-election to a third term in order to run for the U.S. Senate.
Straight initially became a candidate in order to guarantee a line in Essex County for State Sen. Diane
Allen, who was also running for the U.S. Senate, but wound up unopposed in the Republican primary
when the organization candidate, former Assemblywoman Marion Crecco (R-Bloomfield), dropped out
of the race following Treffinger’s withdrawal.
“Candy has really been the energy behind Republican women in New Jersey moving forward for
decades,” said Allen, Straight’s longtime friend. “I would not have run for U.S. Senate without her.”
From her hospital bed two weeks ago, Straight bemoaned the lack of foresight by Republican leaders for
not backing Allen for the Senate seat in 2002. She believed – as many do – that Allen would have won
that general election and might still be in the U.S. Senate today.
Straight mounted an aggressive and vibrant campaign for county executive, even though she knew it
was an uphill and likely unsuccessful endeavor.
She lost to Democrat Joseph DiVincenzo by 49,206 votes, a 67%-33% margin. Still, Straight received the
highest percentage of any Republican countywide candidate in Essex County in the 21st century. She
also ran for Essex County Freeholder-At-Large in 2005.
Straight remains the only woman to win a major party nomination for Essex County Executive.
Her campaign focused on opposition to spend tax dollars to build what is now the Prudential Center in
Newark. She attempted to force a countywide referendum to turn the project down, mounting a
grassroots petition drive.
One of her closest friends, Gail B. Gordon, viewed Straight as one of the most exceptional people in her
“Pioneer, financial mastermind, mentor, friend, political wizard, Jersey treasure and BFF — a lot of
people didn’t know that Candy was addicted to Broadway. Her favorite play? A Chorus Line,” Gordon
said. “She was and will always be the most ‘singular sensation.’”
Straight frequently converted political relationships into genuine, lasting friendships. Kathy and Bob
Hugin were among them. They met Straight through politics and became exceptionally close personal
friends. “We have lost a true force of nature, a great lady and a dear friend. She fought and won many
important causes for women and others who needed a voice,” they said. “We are heart sick. She leaves
a void in so many places and ways.”
Straight’s personal friendships often crossed party aisles.                                                                                Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) recalled that she and Straight appeared at an
annual “Ready to Run” conference that trains women from both parties on running for public office.
“Candy knew the challenges women face because she fought her way up from an entry-level position on
Wall Street to the highest corporate boardrooms. Her documentary on the Equal Rights Amendment will
be released soon and will be a fitting capstone to a life well-lived, “Weinberg said. “I will miss her
friendship, her bipartisanship, her passion, and her fervor.”
Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy both mourned the passing off Straight, who “while
never holding public office, was a tremendous influence on numerous women who have.
“She leaves a strong legacy of advocacy and leadership not just in New Jersey, but nationwide,” Murphy
said. “When we moved to New Jersey more than two decades ago, Candy was among the first to
welcome us to our new home… She helped raise the curtain on many careers, and the lights of our
politics will be a little dimmer without her.”
Straight also served on the Wilson College Board of Trustees.
She served as a trustee of the New Jersey Network Foundation and as president of the Financial
Women’s Association of New York. She was a director of the ERA Foundation.
Straight served as president of The (Women In the Senate and House) WISH List, a national network that
raises money for pro-choice Republican women. She is a co-founder of Women for a Stronger New
Jersey, a super PAC formed to help moderate Republican women win elections. In 1992, she served as
Republican Co-Chair of the Women’s Campaign Fund.
She was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1996, 2000, and 2004. She served as
finance chair for Rep. Bob Franks, a close friend, who ran for the United States Senate in 2000.
In 2015, Straight received the Outstanding Women in Government Award from the New Jersey League
of Municipalities.
Straight didn’t hesitate to take on a cause, even when she had no personal stake. In 2002, she spent her
own money to convince registered Republicans in Newark – about 5,000 of them – to support Cory
Booker’s bid to oust incumbent Sharpe James in the May non-partisan municipal election. Straight did
not know either candidate well, but instinctively seemed to believe that Newark needed new leadership.
Straight became involved in the movie industry about seven years ago when she became concerned
about the shortage of women in Hollywood. She served on the board of Rebelle Media, which was
committed to making films and television shows centered around women characters that were written,
directed, and produced mostly by women.
Her first investment was in Equity, a financial thriller film that received largely positive reviews and was
the first feature film about women on Wall Street. A political thriller, An Acceptable Loss, starring Jamie
Lee Curtis and Tika Sumpter, premiered in 2018.
A documentary on the Equal Rights Amendment that she co-produced is expected to be released this
year. Tainted Dreams, a soap opera she produced, earned Daytime Emmy Award nominations for
Straight in 2014 and 2017.                                                                                                                               Straight spoke often about her recollections of campaigning with her grandparents and for President
Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s.
Her grandfather, Francis R. Jewkes, had served as Bloomfield councilman from 1947 to 1954 when he
lost the Republican primary to Joseph Lintott. Her grandmother won the seat back in 1956, finishing
second in an eight-candidate Republican primary for three council seats. Bloomfield was a Republican
stronghold into the 1980s. Jewkes remained the only woman to win a Bloomfield council seat until
Louise Palagano won in 1984.
Years later, Straight provided scholarships to Bloomfield High School students in memory of her parents
and grandparents.
At the time of her death, Straight was a director of Neuberger and Berman, a multi-billion dollar mutual
fund. She had served as an advisory director of Securitas Capital and on the board of Drake Holdings,
Integon Corporation, Montpelier Re, Providence Washington, National Atlantic Holdings, and Summit
Global Partners. She had served as president of Integon from 1990 to 1992.
An avid sports fan Straight often expressed pride in the successful athletic careers of family who were
Bloomfield sports legends.
Her uncle, Frank Tripucka, was the quarterback for the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions during a
fourteen-year professional football career. Six of her cousins played Division 1 sports, including Kelly
Tripucka, a former Notre Dame basketball star who played in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons, Utah, and
Charlotte Hornets.
Straight, a lifelong resident of Bloomfield is survived by her two aunts, Randy Tripucka and Frances
Martin, her nine cousins, Heather Carr, Tracy Tripucka, Mark Tripucka, Todd Tripucka, Kathie Mentzel,
Pamela Martin, T.K. Tripucka, Kelly Tripucka, and Chris Tripucka, and a multitude of close friends.
Funeral services will be private, and a celebration of her life will be held next month.
Donations can be made in her honor to the Candace L. Straight Legacy Fund at the Center for American
Women and Politics at Rutgers University, 191 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.