Garden State Up For Grabs as State Committee Stiffs Kerry
Al Gore carried New Jersey by 16%, his largest margin in 2000. Two months ago, Kerry was 20% ahead in the polls. Kerry's margin has shrunk to 3 - 8%.
George Bush is campaigning in the state on Monday, October 18; the first presidential visit since before the nominating conventions. Why is Bush gaining in New Jersey? Because Kerry is being attacked by three opponents: the Republicans, the Democratic State Committee and Ralph Nader.
In August, Democratic Governor James E. McGreevey announced that he would resign on November 15th because he had had a gay affair with a man. Some people thought that this was a diversion. McGreevey's major financial backer had just pleaded guilty to charges of campaign finance irregularities. Many of McGreevey's closest associates from his campaign and the early days of his administration were under investigation. Some guessed that an indictment loomed in the Governor's future as well. Resigning over a gay affair seemed to be a good way to turn off the heat. However, the governor may have decided to stay on until after the election, rather than resign immediately, so he could deliver on whatever plea bargain he might have been making with prosecutors.
As the campaign developed through the fall, it turned out that the Democratic State Committee was not really helping the Kerry campaign. The state Democrats had $2.5 million in the bank and $500,000 was needed for a get out the vote drive on Election Day. The Democratic State committee donated only $25,000 and requests from Kerry campaign workers to use the state committee voter database were denied. The Democratic State Committee is routinely not assisting the Kerry campaign.
Why would the State Committee allow itself to be used as an instrument in the Governor's personal tribulations rather than as an instrument for the Democratic electorate? The head of the Democratic State Committee, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman's son had been sentenced to 7 years in jail for armed robbery last spring. Naturally, Bonnie Watson-Coleman was subject to pressure from the Governor who is the chief executive of the penal system.
So the question is, has Governor McGreevey agreed to try and help Bush carry New Jersey in exchange for leniency in prosecution after he leaves office? Is he more favorably disposed to the Bush administration and its political use of the judicial process than he is to John Kerry the former prosecutor?
It is not unprecedented for Democrats and Republicans to collude to fix races in New Jersey. In 1984, the Democrats in New Jersey shoved Walter Mondale down everyone's throats during the presidential primaries, and then walked away from him in the General Election. They did not give him money nor organizational support. The New Jersey democrats supported Reagan in everything but name in 1984.
And the Democratic County Chairman of Monmouth County, New Jersey's third biggest, routinely puts up losing candidates to accommodate the Republicans. There is a Republican Freeholder (county commissioner) who has held office since 1966 and most of the time lives in Florida, but the Democrats have been "unable" to defeat him. If a viable candidate accidentally gets nominated, the Democratic Party does not raise funds for that candidate. The Democratic County Chairman has the lighting contract at the local community college which is run by the all Republican Board of Chosen Freeholders.[No Democrat has been elected to the board since the mid-1980's] With the exception of two congressmen, the bulk of whose districts lie outside Monmouth County, there were no countywide elected Democrats nor state legislators for the past 10 years. Yet, this county chairman is widely supported by the local party committeemen and women.
Then there's Ralph Nader who is on the ballot in New Jersey. Nader claims that his goal is the same as Kerry's: defeating George Bush. Of Nader's 15 New Jersey electors, not one is a Republican. There are 7 Green Party members, 5 Democrats and 3 unaffiliated.
Nader is a Princeton University graduate (Class of 1955. Donald Rumsfeld is the Class of 1954.) Nader's national treasurer lives in Princeton and Nader comes through the state frequently. Here's Nader's idea for how he is helping to defeat Bush. Nader has 25 platform planks on all kinds of issues, labor, unemployment, the war, defense, drugs, the economy, etc. All Kerry has to do is adopt Nader's platform and then he'll win and we'll be rid of George Bush. If Kerry refuses to adopt Nader's platform, then Kerry will lose.
In the 2000 race, when fewer people were urging Nader to drop out of the race, he defended his candidacy by saying that after the election, "we'll still be around with our millions of votes to monitor what's going on in Washington." Well, has the movement over the past four years been toward Nader's agenda or away from it?
Nader hates the Democrats more than the Republicans because he envisions his new party as supplanting the Democrats in a two party system.
New Jersey has about 4 million voters. More than half are not affiliated with either the Republican or the Democratic Parties. So, elections in New Jersey are decided by the independent voter. Under any circumstances, Bush would be gaining in New Jersey as the backwash from McGreevey's misbehavior splashes into the national campaign.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf