Who is New Jersey’s most memorable and (probably) least qualified presidential candidate ever?
In almost any category except for vote-getting, it was tough to beat Henry J. Krajewski, a Secaucus pig farmer and tavern owner who ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1952, 1956 and 1960.
Krajewski (pronounced Kry-EF-skee) specialized in skewering the political establishment. He was just 39 when he began his first presidential bid 64 years ago in March 1952. Sporting a 10-gallon hat and armed with more than 1,000 signatures, he arrived at the State House in Trenton to announce his candidacy as “the poor man’s candidate.” His calling card, a piglet named Stephanie, promptly relieved herself on the documents.
“The Democrats have been hogging the administration in Washington for 20 years, and it’s about time the people began to squeal,” proclaimed the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Krajewski. He was off and running.
Joe McKay of North Haledon, the son of a pig farmer and a family friend, remembers stapling “Krajewski for President” posters on telephone poles near the tavern.
“Henry used to say he believed in the two-party system—one on Friday nights and one on Saturday nights,” McKay recalls.
In those days, pigs were the perfect campaign symbol for a candidate from Secaucus. In the early 1950s, the town’s population was 12,000 people and 75,000 swine. The candidate himself kept 4,000 pigs on his five-acre farm. Garbage from New York City, just five miles away, provided the perfect pig fodder until the notorious stench—and the arrival of the New Jersey Turnpike—led to the demise of the farms.
Over the years, Krajewski’s campaign handouts included pig-shaped stickers that proclaimed, “No piggy deals in Washington.” His platforms typically offered something for everyone—from free milk for all schoolchildren to free beer for needy adults.
Krajewski even had a campaign theme song, the incredibly catchy “Hay, Krajewski! Hay! Hay!” (The spelling of hay was a play on Krajewski’s farming roots.) The polka, written and performed by Bernie Witkowski and His Silver Bells, was released as a 45 rpm single. Besides the lyrics, which consisted mostly of “Hay, hay, Krajewski,” the recording featured grunts and squeals from one of the pig farmer’s four-legged charges. You can still hear a rendition of the polka on YouTube, as performed by the Polish American String Band in the 2014 Philadelphia Pulaski Day Parade.
Despite Krajewski’s “promise ’em anything” approach, the plucky pig farmer received only 4,203 votes in 1952—his best presidential run. In fact, he lost every time he ran for office—including bids for U.S. senator, New Jersey governor, Hudson County freeholder, Secaucus mayor and town councilman.
A diabetic, Krajewski had to have his right leg amputated in 1965. The following year, he ran for the U.S. Senate on a “no sales tax” platform but withdrew because of failing health. Just after the November elections a half-century ago, Krajewski died at home of a heart attack. He was 54.
In reporting Krajewski’s death, the Sunday Times of Trenton wrote that the perennial candidate “proved that anyone can run for president.”
Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” column for the Record. He is the author of books about the Meadowlands and Allendale’s Celery Farm Natural Area.Click here to leave a comment