much money would it take to buy the office of U.S. Senator? How about $60 million?
That is how much of his own money New Jersey Senator John Corzine spent in 2001
to narrowly defeat his opponent while setting a national record for money spent
by a Senate candidate. That might be how much money Corzine spends this November
as he battles one of seven GOP candidates for the nation's most powerful state
executive position: NJ governor.
The main reason why Corzine is even running is because former governor James E.
McGreevey was forced to resign last November after he admitted to having an extramarital
gay affair with a former aide and faced allegations that he had misused his authority
to give the man a top post in his administration. This incident, which gained
international attention, led to Acting Governor Richard Codey's elevation from
Senate President to Governor.
In February, Codey decided not to run for a full term in November, because his
advisers said he would need to raise $10 million just to compete with Corzine
in the Democratic primaries. Corzine, whose fortune is valued at an estimated
$400 million, is expected to run unopposed in the primaries.
New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange) said that Codey's bowing out
shows that "someone of means has a head-and-shoulders advantage. We really need
to think about that. It really is unfair. It eliminates 99.9 percent of the people."
Codey has said that he will remain Senate President, where he still has three
years left on his term.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidates are led by Mercer county businessman Doug
Forrester and former Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler. Forrester lost to current
U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in 2002 (50 percent-33 percent). On the other
hand, Schundler lost the 2001 gubernatorial election to McGreevey (50 percent-34
percent). Forrester and Schundler are in a statistical dead heat at this point
Morris County Freeholder John Murphy is also in the running, as is Bergen County
businessman Robert Schroeder, who finished second in the Gloucester County convention.
Also running are Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, who claims to be the most conservative
of the group, Assemblyman Paul DiGaetano (R-Rutherford), and Bergen County Freeholder
Todd Galiguire. DiGaetano may be the dark horse among the GOP candidates. He won
the Bergen County convention, which is considered the biggest prize in the race
to the nomination. The Bergen County Convention was the first loss for Forrester,
who had won the previous four conventions.
all of the emphasis on who wins the county conventions, the results do not always
provide a clear-cut winner. Former gubernatorial candidate Bob Franks won all
but one county in 2001, yet still lost the nomination to Schundler. This time
around, Schundler is running on a property tax relief proposal, while DiGaetano
is pushing counterterrorism preparedness. Lonegan, who supports school vouchers,
is demanding that the state close Teterboro airport.
Former Saturday Night Live star Joe Piscopo has not ruled out running as an Independent
candidate. He was "drafted" to run by Doug Friedline, who successfully ran Minnesota
Governor Jesse Ventura's 1999 campaign. Friedline also tried to convince Bruce
Springsteen to run for Senate in 2002.
Regardless of all of the GOP and potential Independent candidates, the question
still remains if anyone can come close to matching Corzine's fortune and defeat
him. Corzine, who earned his wealth as co-chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs investment
firm, has given over $8 million of his own money to the Democratic Party. Most
of that money has found its way to NJ Democratic leaders and party bosses who
have ensured that Corzine would run unopposed in the primaries. Despite all of
the money that Corzine has fed into the party, his mantra is "unbought and unbossed."
Corzine has responded to GOP complaints about his donations by claiming that he
is less influenced by special interests and lobbyists because he has used all
of his own money.
"I'm not going knocking on those doors asking for dough that is going to allow
my decisions to be colored," said Corzine.
According to recent polls, New Jersey voters agree with him. A recent Quinnipiac
poll showed that 57 percent of voters believe that Corzine's fortune frees him
from special interests' pressures. Further, 66 percent of voters polled were not
bothered at all by the $8 million Corzine has donated to the Democrats. These
polls reflect Corzine's 20 point lead over either Forrester or Schundler in a
head to head match up.
New Jersey voters will need to make another important decision at the polls in
November, when they decide if they need a lieutenant governor. There are only
six other states in the nation that do not have a lieutenant governor, and recent
events have raised more questions about the line of succession in New Jersey.
Critics of the current system charge that it is a violation of separation of powers
to have a governor, or acting governor, and Senate President be the same person.
The proposed amendment to the state constitution would call for the gubernatorial
candidate to run on a ticket with a lieutenant governor, similar to the presidential
elections. There have been some questions about exactly what role the lieutenant
would have and how much or how little power he or she would hold. If this measure
passes, the first time a candidate would have to pick a lieutenant governor would
Matt Egan is a sophomore journalism/professional writing major at the College
of New Jersey.