Wednesday, November 09, 2005

post-election thoughts

So now it's all over, and Jon Corzine is the governor-elect in New Jersey. Hurrah.

That may sound somewhat anti-Corzine, but it's not. I don't particularly want Corzine to be our next governor, but I didn't particularly want Doug Forrester. Neither candidate inspired with much confidence, much interest, or much enthusiasm for this whole sorry election. As a result, I find myself largely indifferent to the final results of Tuesday's election. Honestly, the campaign as a whole was rather disappointing. It was an embarassment not only to the state and its voters, but to the two major political parties as well.

The GOP probably could have won if it had run U.S. attorney Chris Christie, who has made a reputation for himself by prosecuting several high-profile corruption cases, but he sensibly enough wouldn't give up his position without assurances from party officials that they would back him. They wouldn't do that, so he dropped out of the primary early on. In the end, the GOP went with a multimillionaire (Doug Forrester) whose chief qualification for the office seems to be that he's rich and wants to be governor.

Forrester hasn't been able to articulate clear positions on the hot-button issuesof the day, such as stem cell research, and has historically displayed an inability to answer simple questions simply. When he has put forward great ideas, like cutting property taxes 30 percent over the next three years, he's been unable to explain how he plans to deliver on those promises, except through useless generalities like "eliminating waste" and "cutting unnecessary state jobs.".

My own party, the Democrats, have a popular incumbent governor who popularly is seen as restoring integrity and respect to an office tarnished by former Gov. McGreevey. Acting Governor Richard Codey has steered the state through some austere budgetary times, and he's done it without resorting to the financial chicanery of the previous administrations. During the year he's been in office, he actually DID draw attention to nepotism, stupid appointments and needless jobs that should be cut;and he's fielded some tough times with the State Police and Attorney General's Office over couterterrorism. And, despite being in office over a year, he's yet to have a scandal. That's a record in New Jersey.

Unfortunately for Codey and for voters, he was shut out of the primary process early on. Jon Corzine, a multimillionare who got bored with the Senate seat he bought a few years ago and decided to spice things up by buying himself a governorship. Early in the primary, Corzine bought the loyalty of party county bosses — not essential to winning a primary, although it's a definite advantage — so that Codey's chances of winning the primary were greatly reduced.

Corzine is a man of conscience -- witness the attention he has brought to genocide in the Sudan -- but even though he hasn't had any major scandals per se, there's plenty of reasons to be concerned about Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger calls his "ethical blind spots." Corzine had a romantic entanglement with the leader of the state's largest public workers labor union, which may be nothing in itself, except he lent her the money for a new house, and then forgave the loan, about $470,000. (Sounds like a likely conflict to me, come contract negotiations time. Let's hear a big "ugh" for the ethics of that arrangement.)

And as a U.S. senator, he joined real estate mogul and wealthy Democratic donor Charles Kushner in an attempt to buy the Nets basketball team. The partnership then sought a state subsidy from a Democratic administration here in New Jersey while Corzine was a Democratic senator from New Jersey. While that may not be illegal, it certainly seems shady. He also helped to funnel $1 million to a Democratic county boss who was tape recorded discussing ways to cut off contractors who don't play ball, arranging phony jobs and all sorts of other contemptible political stuff.

Yet Corzine bristles when these things are mentioned and says he sees nothing wrong with his associations.

And so I'm not thrilled about the way this whole election went. I think we were given the choice between someone who is underqualified on the one hand, and someone else who will invite scandal on the other.

I cast a write-in ballot for Codey, as did my wife. To the cynic, those were "wasted" votes, but if enough of them were cast -- and there were enough rumblings about it that the Star-Ledger said they would prefer that option in their endorsement editorial, and plenty of other people were writing letters urging a Codey write-in -- I'd like to think the state Democratic Party would get the message that we're really tired of the jackals and jackasses who keep the party rife with corruption and inbreeding deciding how to do things.

A little honesty and a decent candidate would have been a nice change for once. Of course, this is New Jersey. Reform is impossible.

No comments: