Friday, December 03, 2004
Jon Corzine, U.S. Senator and owner of a luxury apartment about five blocks away from my decidedly non-luxury pad, made it official yesterday, declaring his candidacy for the most powerful governor's office in the nation.
I tend to be suspicious of those who run for office touting the fact that they are not career politicians. I maintain that career politicians are no worse than career painters, or career bartenders, or career shoe salesmen. You don't hire someone with no experience fixing refrigerators to fix your refrigerator; why choose someone with no experience writing and debating legislation to write and debate legislation? There's the argument that those who stay in office longer tend to become corrupt, but I don't buy it. McGreevey got himself into enough trouble as governor in less than one term, and the fact that the affair he engaged in was a homosexual one has nothing to do with the fact that he recklessly endangered the Democratic Party's standing in this state.
I also tend to be leery of those in politics with enormous personal fortunes. There's that implication that you're buying your way into office. And that's disdainful. But the poorer candidate isn't necessarily the more honest one; witness Kerry vs. Bush.
New Jersey's political landscape is so screwy, and so dominated by entrenched machinery, that a relative newcomer with boatloads of money can tout these qualities as assets rather than hide them as liabilities. I have no doubt that Corzine would be a good governor, perhaps even a very good one. Yet I'm not sure how I feel about him running for the office at this time. Corzine has shown himself to be a strong, respected voice in the senate, and it would seem like a great shame for him to give up that role without serving a full term. The Dems will also need someone to replace Frank Lautenberg in the senate in 2008, or sooner if he leaves before the seat he's keeping warm is up, as is rumored.
Conventional wisdom is that Rep. Robert Menendez moves up and takes Corzine's senate seat. Fine, except that Menendez, my congressman, is the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House. That's a lot of pull to have in your corner. Call me selfish, but I don't want to give that up. If Bob sticks it out in the House and a few things play out the right way, he could even end up Speaker someday. And I sure as hell would like my congressman to be Speaker of the House. Wouldn't you?
If running Corzine is what it takes to keep the Republicans out of Drumthwacket for the remainder of this decade, I'm ok with it. Hell, I may volunteer for the campaign. But if by spring it seems likely that Acting Gov. Richard Codey can beat Bret Schundler, Doug Forrester, or whoever else the Repubs run, I say we go with Codey, and leave Corzine on the national stage.
If Corzine becomes gov, the statewide Democratic Party is going to have its work cut out for it if Jersey is to maintain its Democratic presence on Capitol Hill. And it will severely jeopardize the unique status New Jersey enjoys as the only one of the 50 states with a Democratic governor, a Democratic majority in the state legislature, two Democratic senators, a Democratic majority in its House of Representatives delegation, and whose electoral votes in the most recent presidential election went to the Democrat.
I love this state.