It’s been said that the New Jersey governor’s race doesn’t really begin in earnest until after Labor Day. But the race between Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Christopher Christie began earlier this summer and has been heating up.
Christie, the former U.S. attorney who investigated dozens of political officials for corruption, claims he will bring ethical government to Trenton. Corzine says his record makes him more qualified and that Christie has ethical issues of his own.
The candidates have slightly more than two months before the Nov. 3 election to convince the 5.2 million registered voters of New Jersey. That includes the 308,000 registered voters in Hudson County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one.
The most recent Hudson County foray to court votes was Sunday, Aug. 23, at Jersey City’s annual Puerto Rican Parade. Christie rode on a float with local Republican supporters, while Corzine walked on the street with Democratic politicians, including Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Union City Mayor and State Sen. Brian Stack, and Congressman Albio Sires.
Different this time around?
Various statewide polls in the past week had Christie leading Corzine by as much as nine points or as few as three.
But if past results are any indication in Hudson County, then Corzine, a Hoboken resident, will prevail. In the November 2005 general election, he won by more than three to one in Hudson County. Statewide, Corzine claimed 54 percent of the vote.
At the time, Republican opponent Doug Forrester was criticized by longtime Hudson County Republican powerbroker Jose Arango for not making enough inroads into Hudson County.
Christie has opted for a different strategy.
He has campaigned a good deal in Hudson County since he officially announced his candidacy in January, making multiple appearances in Hoboken, Corzine’s current hometown.
Christie’s most famous appearance was in Union City doing a friendly walkaround with Brian Stack on July 23. It also happened to be the day of 44 arrests of religious and political figures in New Jersey and New York, including a number of Hudson County politicians. Stack, incidentally, has not said whom he will endorse in the race.
Christie’s critics say his appearance in Hudson County that day was calculated for maximum political impact.
Hope for Republicans?
Sean Connerly has been a registered Republican since he turned 18 in 1976, and he has worked on elections from the age of 11. Since then, the Jersey City resident, who is a practicing attorney, has been a campaign worker for many local and state elections, having helped the likes of former Gov. Tom Kean and Pres. Ronald Reagan, as well as former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, whom he also served as corporation counsel.
Polls in the past week had Christie leading Corzine as much as nine points and as few as three.
“Even though it’s a Democrat-leaning and heavily leaning county, the majority of the voters aren’t affiliated with one party or another,” Connerly said.
Connerly said even if Christie does not win Hudson County, if he is to capture 40 to 45 percent of the vote, he can make a significant impact. Connerly said for that to happen, Christie has to win several Hudson towns with strong Republican voting blocs, including Secaucus, Bayonne, and North Bergen.
Hudson Reporter political columnist and senior staff writer Al Sullivan doesn’t think Christie will win anywhere near 45 percent. However, he believes Corzine will have to win at least 70 percent of the vote in Hudson County, which means the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), the county political machine, will have to really get out the vote.
“If there is a competitive race in Hudson County that means the state Democratic Party will have to spend money and resources that they did not expect to do, and will take away from focusing on other competitive places in New Jersey,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also sees Corzine at a disadvantage because he is running on his record, while Christie just has to run as the “Un-Corzine” and can do so without presenting an actual plan on how to govern the state.
Meanwhile, the statewide election is likely to bring out more voters in two towns that have mayoral elections in November – Secaucus and Hoboken.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.