Worst New Jersey Governor's Race in Modern History

The 2005 election was the worst New Jersey Governor’s race in modern history. Two multi-millionaires spent over $72 million to throw mud at each other rather than discuss serious issues so the voters could help fashion a mandate for the eventual winner.  That is why the turnout was a paltry 46%, the lowest vote for Governor since women got the right to vote 85 years ago.

With Senator Corzine’s victory, the Democratic Party is in solid control of state government: both houses of the legislature, with the Senate under the leadership of the former Acting Governor Dick Codey; it is obvious that the Democrats have been given a clear mandate to act on the serious budgetary and economic problems facing the voters.

   Senator Corzine’s 1,150,687 votes are just 23.8% of the registered voters.  This means that, as a percentage of registered, of all the winning and losing Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor of New Jersey since women got the right to vote in 1920, Senator Corzine ran 43rd out of 48, the lowest of any victor.

              Only Jim Courter in 1989, Brett Schundler in 2001, Doug Forrester, Charles Sandman in 1973 and Peter Shapiro in 1985 fared worse.  And they all lost.  So Jon Corzine is the weakest winning Governor in the modern history of New Jersey, just as last year Bush won the weakest second term in United States history.  We are in a race to the bottom.

             By comparison,  when Jim Florio lost to Christine Whitman in 1993, he received almost 60,000 more votes than Corzine.  In absolute numbers, of the 11 winning candidates for Governor since 1965, 8 received more votes than Corzine.  Only Tom Kean in his squeaker against Florio in 1981 got 1,145,999; or less than 5,000 fewer; and in Christine Whitman’s 1997 re-election when she beat McGreevey 1,126,927 to 1,100,239 her total was 24,000 lower.

              It is well to remember that in 1965 the voting age was 21 and there were 1.6 million fewer voters.  Yet Hughes won re-election with almost 130,000 more votes than Corzine received four decades later.

              Unmentioned by most commentators, about 4%, or 1 of every 25 voters, cast a ballot for one of the eight independent candidates, unable to stomach the two-party campaign sleaze.

             This low turnout was no accident.  Corzine’s  1,150,687 almost matches the 1,157,177 registered Democrats in New Jersey.  Forrester’s 956,795 is just 63,000 higher than the 893,854 registered Republicans.  Negative campaigning is deliberate, designed to keep the 2,760,558 unaffiliated voters disgusted and at home. It works like a charm.

Just like the poll tax and literacy tests in the 1950’s was designed to disenfranchise black voters in the South, negative campaigning is designed to disenfranchise unaffiliated voters everywhere.  It is the way the Democrats and Republicans, who together do not command the support of the majority of the voters, can maintain a monopoly on political power.  If the Republican and Democratic Parties were private, profit-making corporations, they could be indicted for illegal collusion in restraint of trade.

  The only problem with this system is that administrations that emerge from negative campaigns are unable to govern.  Not surprisingly, less than 2 weeks after the election, which was waged primarily on the issue of cutting real estate taxes, it turns out that the state of New Jersey is facing a $5 billion budget gap for next year.  Similarly, the fear mongering that resulted in a second term for George Bush has yielded an impotent administration.

So, here we have 2 multi-millionaire businessmen candidates who spent $72 million of their own money smearing his opponent and touting cuts in real estate taxes, without once mentioning the elephant in the china shop, a gapping deficit that will be very difficult to close.  It's enough to make one wonder how they made their money in the first place.

The negative campaigning by the two party system is why the same office holders win election after election,  but the policies never change and the problems grow worse.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf