Democrat Jim McGreevey, who ran against a relatively weak candidate, swept the state and Hudson County in the Democratic primary by a huge margin and will challenge Schundler in November.
Schundler pulled a similar upset in 1992 when he switched parties and became the first Republican mayor of Jersey City since the early 1900s.
With 57 percent of the state's Republican vote, Schundler took the four principal Republican counties of Bergen, Morris, Monmouth and Ocean, but also took Hunterdon, Mercer and Somerset counties.
In Hudson County, Schundler's political machine - a structure he has been putting into place since 1992 especially during the 1995 county executive election - brought out the vote for his ticket, too. Schundler surpassed Franks here by a 3 to 1 majority.
"It was great!" said Frank MacCormack, the Schundler-backed candidate for the 32nd state senate district assembly seat. MacCormack of Secaucus beat John Plunchino for the Republican nomination and will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Nicholas Sacco in November.
"This man is loved and he is going to beat up on McGreevey in the fall," MacCormack said as to why Schundler won so big in Hudson County. "For me, this was a major upset."
Indeed, Schundler's republicans in Hudson County won a clean sweep against those supported by Franks, each by wide margins.
Along with McCormack in the 32nd district, Schundler-supported candidate Martin McFadden of Bayonne will face Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Charles who won the Democratic nod.
In the 31st district's assembly races, Incumbent Assemblyman Joseph Doria won the Democratic nod but will have to face Schundler-backed Ador Equipado and Ira Jersey, both of Jersey City in November.
In 32nd District's assembly race, Democratic incumbent assembly members Anthony Impreveduto and Joan Quigley will face Republicans Frances Cohen and Esther Gatria, both of North Bergen, both members of the Schundler ticket.
In the 33rd District Republican Senate Jersey City Councilwoman Nancy Gaynor will challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Bernard Kenny. Republican assembly candidates Helen Pinoargotty and Sergio Alonso, both of Union City, will take on Democratic Assemblyman Albio Sires and Union City Commissioner Rafael Fraguela. Juanita Lopez of Jersey City will be running for assembly in the 31st District, and Independent Herb Shaw, of North Bergen, in the 32nd District.
In other races in Hudson County, Democratic Incumbent Joseph Cassidy will face Republican Carlos Betancourt of North Bergen for county sheriff. Democratic Incumbent Barbara Donnelly of Jersey City will face Republican Melba Cariaga of Union City for county registrar.
Schundler took over the Republican Party
MacCormack said the machinery that won this primary election for Schundler's team has been in the works for years, as Schundler took control of a relatively weak Hudson County Republican Party and breathed new life into it.
Over those years, MacCormack and others attended functions and built a base that the Republicans hope can challenge Democratic domination in the county and the state.
"I got to know Bret years ago, and I liked what he was doing in Jersey City," MacCormack said. "He brought life back into that city, and I think he can do the same for the state."
In 1995, Schundler backed Bill Macci as the Republican candidate for county executive, MacCormack said, and this set the stage for building that wing of the party. Although Macci lost, the act showed federal and state party members how potent a force Schundler could be. MacCormack and others stayed loyal to Schundler, even as the old guard party tried to exclude him.
"When Bret decided to run for Governor, he called me and asked if I would be a state senatorial candidate, I said I would be proud to, and I am," MacCormack said, saying that the primary results showed a significant shift in Hudson County's Republican Party.
"The old guard is through dominating our party," MacCormack said. "Now the rest of the state is waking up and realizing just how great a candidate we have in Bret Schundler."
Both Schundler and Franks tried to present themselves as fiscal conservatives (Schundler ran ads comparing himself to Ronald Reagan as far as tax cuts go). But Franks was more liberal on social issues. Schundler is against abortion, while Franks is not.
Although many local Democrats believe Schundler will not be able to beat McGreevey in November, MacCormack claims Schundler may surprise everyone, pointing to the coalition forming on a state level with Bob Franks supporting him and former Gov. Tom Kean signing on as Schundler's campaign manager.
"Bret could be the first governor from Hudson County since the Democrats ran things under [political boss] Frank Hague," MacCormack said, noting that a whole different dynamic makes Schundler attractive to voters: "Bret speaks simple straight language and tells it like it is. And he has solutions to problems, he just doesn't criticize. If he says he'll do something, he'll do it. If he says he'll reduced taxes on people's properties, he will. If he says he'll remove the tolls on the Garden State Parkway, that's what he'll do."