Christopher Christie Is Pulled Into the Governor’s Mansion by the Vacuum Created by the Collapse of New Jersey’s Democratic Party
New Jersey’s 2009 Governor’s race, at 46.9%, had the lowest turnout percentage in history. Even in absolute numbers, the 2,453,790 voters was lower than 1997, and 1993. Seeing as there were at least 1 million fewer voters respectively in those years, the 2009 election was a real loser. In Virginia, too, the only other state with a gubernatorial election, the turnout was a record low.
Christie’s 1,173,769 votes was the lowest winning total number of votes for Governor since Christine Whitman in 1997, and Tom Kean in 1981. In fact, it is lower than the number of votes Jim Florio received in his losing races in 1993. Every other winning candidate for Governor of New Jersey since 1965 received more votes than Christie. He holds the title for the weakest winning candidate in the history of New Jersey’s gubernatorial elections.
Under normal circumstances 1,173,769 votes (47.8%) is not enough to win, especially in a state with 5,224,896 registered voters. That is about 23% of the active electorate. But 2009 was not a normal year.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for incumbent Governor Jon Corzine’s campaign, most of it of his own making. Polls over the summer showed him consistently trailing Christie. As the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs, Corzine had abiding faith that a lot of money combined with an absence of principal could overcome any obstacle in politics. This turned out not to be the case. Also, the current financial crisis has taken the luster off the super-rich financial manipulators like Corzine.
During the summer, the Democratic caucus in the State Senate, which was not up for election this year and that the Democrats narrowly control 22 – 18, had a leadership fight between Stephen Sweeney and Richard Codey. This fight was precipitated by the decision of Joseph Roberts, Speaker of the Assembly, not to seek re-election. Roberts comes from southern New Jersey, and New Jersey’s south is routinely under-represented in statewide office and the legislative leadership. Roberts’ departure prompted Sweeney, another southerner, to challenge Richard Codey who hails from West Orange. The north-south split in New Jersey is like the background noise from the big bang, a recitative in the political firmament. The fractiousness of the Democratic caucus in the legislature was a clear sign that Corzine was in trouble. If the sitting governor can not even control the members of his own party in the legislature, what hope does he have of solving the looming $8 billion budget gap? New Jersey is bankrupt and the governing party is bickering.
So, who does Governor Corzine, who comes from Illinois and lives in Hoboken, choose for his Lieutenant Governor candidate? The Genius Governor picks State Senator Loretta Weinberg from Teaneck, New Jersey. Teaneck is 15 miles to the north of Hoboken. So, the Democrats offered the State of New Jersey a ticket where both people are from the Northeast corner of the state, almost New York. Good thinking, Jon.
The net result was that the Democratic party vote collapsed in its traditional strongholds, while it surged, relatively, in the huge shore counties of Monmouth and Ocean. Hunterdon, Morris, Ocean, Somerset, and Cape May Counties had the highest turnouts of 59.47%, 52.82%, 51.91%, 51.82% and 51.80% respectively. Christie carried these counties with 65.70%, 59.99%, 65.62%, 56.26% and 54.31% respectively. Corzine’s strong counties: Hudson, Essex, Mercer, Camden, Passaic and Cumberland, which he carried with 69.00%, 66.96%, 55.04%, 54.29%, 51.28% and 50.36% respectively, had the lowest turnouts of 36.25%, 40.00%, 34.98%, 41.69%, 42.23% and 39.04%. So, Corzine was defeated in his own strongholds. Democrats stayed home in droves and that permitted Christie to win.
The low turnout is bi-partisan policy generated by media bias and negative campaigning. Registered Republicans and Democrats combined are about 40% of the electorate. So, how does 40% maintain a monopoly on political office? By doing everything possible to discourage the remaining 60% from going to the polls. Firstly, the independent candidates nominated by the independent voters are routinely excluded from newspaper and television coverage and rigged rules that keep them out of the debates. In addition, relentlessly negative political advertisements turn off the independent voters. Corzine and Christie spent tens of millions of dollars, some of it tax dollars, not to promote their own records of accomplishment, but to trash his opponent.
The Phony Independent
Corzine had one other trick up his sleeve, dealing with the independents. The problem with rich people is that whenever they face a problem, their first and preferred solution is to write a check. All the slam dunk candidates, like the Republican congressmen, who would have clobbered Corzine in the General Election were warned off the race by the prospect of Corzine’s deep pockets. To prevent the independent voters from flocking to Christie, he created a stealth independent, Christopher Daggett. Daggett was a Republican appointee, a specialist in environmental issues, who had never been elected to public office and no one had ever heard of him.
In spite of this, Daggett was able to raise by September 1st, the $340,000 necessary to gain entrance into the candidates debates as mandated by the public funding law. However, once the campaign got underway and Daggett became better known, he was only able to raise an additional $200,000 between September 1st and October 23rd. In 2001, State Senator William Schluter, who had been redistricted out of his Senate seat, ran for Governor as an independent. Schluter, who served in the state legislature from 1968 to 1974, and again from 1988 to 2002, a total of twenty years over four decades, was unable to raise the money necessary to gain entrance into the mandated gubernatorial debates. And Schluter was running against Jim McGreevey and Douglas Forrester. Yet, Christopher Daggett, who had never been elected to anything, could raise the money with no problem.
Furthermore, by Daggett served a double function of discrediting independent candidates generally. Although Joshua Leinsdorf, who had served nine years as an elected member of the Princeton Regional School Board was on the ballot, he was frozen out of the media (because he had a real program) while Christopher Daggett, who had never been elected to anything, was given widespread publicity because he raised $340,000. In other words, real political and governmental accomplishment does not count, only money. In 1984, Princeton’s Mayor, Barbara Sigmund was seriously touted as the Democratic nominee for Governor. Yet, twenty-five years later, a Princeton School Board Member is blacked out. Maybe it is because Mrs. Sigmund was the daughter of former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Hale Boggs.
Political Objectivity, Corruption and Race
So, Corzine lost, not because of any significant surge of support for Republican Christopher Christie, but because of the collapse of support by the Democrats. Political scientists and pundits are supposed to be objective. To that end, most of the Princeton University political science professors are not registered to vote. Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and her predecessor Harold Shapiro come from Canada.
However, Joshua Leinsdorf, the psephologist and author of this website, was a candidate in this election. So, he has a unique perspective on the results. The overriding question has to be, why didn’t Obama, who visited New Jersey three times in support of Corzine, manage to produce the turnout to save Corzine’s skin? And here’s the good news, Obama’s election has really solved a major racial issue in American politics. The blacks have finally become integrated into the electorate as equals.
Leinsdorf learned this lesson last spring, when he was circulating his petition. Josh has been running independent campaigns for almost forty years. Asking blacks to sign had usually been a wasted effort. Many were not registered. Those who were were often hostile and gave Josh a hard time, asking many questions, then, in the end, refusing to sign. Many young men were convicted felons who had lost their franchise.
Obama’s election has changed the complexion of politics completely. This year, blacks were Josh’s most reliable petition signers. Obama’s candidacy got them all to register to vote. Obama’s victory has changed their attitude toward the political process. Their franchise is like something new they have acquired. They were eager to try it out. Virtually every black Josh asked to sign his petition did so almost without hesitation. Not one person asked if he had supported Obama. Most had no interest in his program or asked any questions. Josh was asking for help to get on the ballot. Their signature would help. So, they signed. With Obama in the White House, blacks have become avid supporters of the democratic process. The reason the Republican right now looks like kooks is because Obama has overnight converted the most alienated, hostile 15% of the electorate into the bedrock of the establishment. So, the center has taken one giant step to the left.
As an illustration of how low the democratic turnout was in the election, Barack Obama received 2,215,442 votes in New Jersey in 2008, less than 250,000 fewer than then total turnout in the 2009 Governor’s race. In the Democratic stronghold of Mercer County, Obama got 107,926 votes, more than 5,000 votes more than the total turnout in 2009. Corzine received 55,198 votes in Mercer County, just over half of Obama’s tally.
Corzine Lost Because He was a Racist, Obama’s Support Notwithstanding
Last spring, polls consistently showed Corzine with a low approval rating. The governor knew he was going to have a tough fight for re-election. To that end, he decided to pocket the minority black and hispanic vote and pander to the white middle-right. He fought for a new school funding formula that was essentially racist while appearing egalitarian.
For the past 30 years, New Jersey has accepted its de facto segregated school system. To make racial segregation acceptable, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in the famous Abbott v. Burke decision, mandated that the overwhelmingly minority, failing, inner-city schools should have equal resources with the wealthier suburbs. These 31 districts, known as Abbott Districts, were largely funded by the state and consumed a huge share of state education aid. The result of this formula, over the past six years when state aid to the other districts has been essentially frozen, was to cause local property taxes to skyrocket, especially in the lower middle-class blue collar suburbs like Hamilton that have plenty of minority students.
The cry went up that state aid should follow the student, rather than go to the district. This sounds good in theory, but in practice it was a way of diverting money from virtually 100% minority school districts to white middle class tax relief. When Josh Leinsdorf taught in Trenton, he had three students in his class who had either been born in prison or had parents in prison. To compare the educational needs of his 100% minority class in Trenton, where 15% of the students had parents in prison, and where one student even probably had AIDS (disclosure to the teacher not permitted), to the needs of a poverty student who attended school in Princeton, where Josh was on the Board of Education, is risible. When the United States Supreme Court in 1955 ruled that “separate is inherently unequal”, it was telling the truth. A poverty student in a multi-income, ethnically diverse classroom gets a far better education at a lower cost than a student in a class of 100% poverty students with more than its fair share of absent or overburdened parents. The father of one of Josh’s students in Trenton had been a 19 year old who promptly went to jail for 10 years on a drug charge, leaving his pregnant wife to raise their son alone.
So, Jon Corzine’s school funding formula, which was one of the few accomplishments that he touted on the campaign trail, was racist. Everyone should be encouraged that the black voters did not heed Obama’s call to support Corzine.
Furthermore, Corzine reappointed Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini, Jr. a former Assemblyman who was originally appointed by Jim McGreevey. Now McGreevey, then a closeted gay, knew he was misbehaving; so what kind of prosecutor, who would be in charge of prosecuting any crimes committed in Mercer County’s State House or Governor’s Mansion, do you think McGreevey would appoint? A reliable political hack, of course.
Bocchini, however, seemed to have a special penchant for going after educators, especially black ones. Maybe he was trying to build a resume for a run at high office on the basis of prosecuting educators. When 19 year old Rider University student Gary DeVercilly, Jr. died after a night of drinking at a fraternity initiation, Bocchini indicted the school administrators. Indicting school administrators was a national first.
Carl Jordan, the lone full-time black teacher and football coach at Steinert High School, a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, was walking to practice one day when he saw a bigger girl accosting a smaller girl. He pulled the bigger girl off the smaller girl. The bigger girl, the relative of a local policeman, claimed that Jordan inappropriately touched her because her body came in contact with his when he intervened in the fight. Bocchini brought charges against Jordan to the Grand Jury, but no indictment was handed down. There were local demonstrations by football players and their parents against Bocchini’s actions. Nevertheless, as a result of Bocchini’s actions, Jordan lost his coaching job.
The same thing happened to Raffael Mack, a teacher at the Jefferson School. A student was playing with a basketball inside the halls, which was a danger to other students. When Mack asked for the basketball and the student refused, Mack forcibly took the ball away. The student fell to the floor, breaking his wrist. Mack was indicted for assault and the principal for covering up the “crime”. In other words, the message was going out that teachers could be punished for intervening to protect other students from harm.
The backstory here is complex. New Jersey Schools operate under a Memorandum of Agreement between the School Districts and the local Police. In effect, this agreement shreds the Constitution when it comes to teachers and students. Teachers are required to turn in their students to the police when they suspect they are engaged in illegal activity.
New Jersey is bankrupt. One of its greatest liabilities is the pension obligations owed to the teachers and state workers. Governor Corzine just signed an ethics bill providing that officials convicted of crimes should lose their pensions. In the popular mind, corrupt officials means elected officials. But in the fine print, public officials are also teachers and administrators. Prosecutor Bocchini’s assault on the educators was perhaps an attempt to create a crime of omission, like failure to inform administrators or police. In other words, Bocchini was trying to create a crime not out of Jordan’s and Mack’s intervention in student misbehavior, but in their failure to report it to the administrators and police. If he could make it a crime to not inform the administrators or police of suspected student misconduct, then there could be a basis for depriving the teachers of their pensions. Teachers might lose their pensions for something they did not do, an omission, a truly Orwellian concept.
New Jersey’s public pensions are underfunded by about 40%, or $50 billion. There is no way to close this gap through taxes, because the state is already broke and taxpayers are tapped out. Bocchini and Corzine seemed to be trying to criminalize omissions in the classroom so that teachers might be deprived of their pensions. At least that seems to have been the hidden agenda of the late Corzine administration. Nevertheless, the New Jersey Education Association, the Teacher’s Union, vigorously supported Corzine.
Corrupting the Political Process
Usually, when personally wealthy people run for public office, voters are told that the candidate can’t be bought because he already has so much money. Governor Corzine accepted no salary from the state. However, what few realize is that candidates like Corzine are pouring tens of millions of dollars into a crooked system that, in effect, supports that system. So, far from making the system fairer, self-financed candidates like Corzine are making it impossible to clean up that crooked system. I won’t mention the misuse of the public financing to exclude poor candidates from the race, which was discussed elsewhere.
The universities and their polling operations and political science departments have become major players in corrupting elections, especially the state universities that depend on the public treasury for much of their money. Princeton University obligingly provided a forum for independent Christopher Daggett, the Corzine shill. Raritan Valley Community College created a forum for Daggett and Christie that excluded the other nine independent candidates. Academics think that if something is given a different name, that makes it something different. By Princeton calling Daggett’s appearance a policy forum, and by Raritan Community College calling the invitation to Christie and Daggett an Economic Roundtable, that provided the cover for them to give exposure to some candidates during the crucial final weeks of the campaign while excluding others. Don’t you get it? It’s not a debate when it’s called a forum or roundtable. And these are the people entrusted with educating the young and the old. The newspapers and electronic media obligingly cooperate in this fraud, so we become increasingly a nation of morons whose economy is collapsing. Welcome to the Third World of New Jersey.
The Monmouth University provided the venue for the officially sanctioned Lieutenant Governor’s Debate that excluded nine of the twelve candidates for Lieutenant Governor. In exchange for helping black out coverage for the underfunded independents, Patrick Murray the Director of the Polling Institute at Monmouth University, got extensive newspaper coverage and appearances on New Jersey Network telling the voters what they think. That was the time and exposure that should have gone to the nine uncovered independent candidates so that low budget ideas for creating jobs and fixing the economy could have been entertained in the public forum before the election. Then, professors like Brigid Harrison of Montclair State University appear with Patrick Murray and proposes that independent candidates who raise the $340,000 to qualify for the debates should be given preferential ballot position. In other words, the political scientists are lobbying to make money, not votes or voters, more powerful in the political system.
Finally, the State Division of Elections removed Joanne Miller, Joshua Leinsdorf’s original choice for Lieutenant Governor, from the ballot on the basis of a law that wasn’t even in effect. Joanne is a teacher in Newark and a grandmother. She was removed from the ballot just because Corzine did not want a minority on the ballot against him. And this is democracy for which people are dying to defend in Iraq and Afghanistan? New Jersey’s elections are no more honest than those in Iran or Afghanistan. Just as in 1987, when voters were defrauded of their right to fill vacancies in the legislature, just as in 1988 the Division of Elections cheated in the first Special Senate election under the new law to allow John D’Amico onto the ballot when his petition was filed late; the multiple layers of privately and publicly funded fraud in the political system is the reason the economy is in a state of collapse. All the fine ideals and statements about freedom and democracy are bald faced lies. That is why Christie won with the smallest percentage of the vote in New Jersey’s history. And Christie is going to be a disaster.
The Real Reason Corzine Lost
On April 12, 2007 Governor Corzine was traveling at 90 miles per hour on the Garden State Parkway without wearing his seat belt when the SUV being driven by a State Trooper got into an accident. The Governor was severely injured and almost killed.
Even if I liked Governor Corzine, even if I am more sympathetic to his professed values, I would not have been able to publicly support the Governor. We have a seventeen year old child. If our child had driven at 90 miles per hour on the Parkway without wearing a seatbelt, she would have been grounded for life. Corzine was incredibly irresponsible, and as Governor, he is not only responsible for enforcing the state’s laws, but he is a role model. How could he expect anyone to reward such irresponsible behavior with a second term of the second highest elective office in the land?
It is no wonder that Christie’s statewide margin came entirely from Monmouth and Ocean Counties. After Corzine’s accident, the speed limit on the Parkway was reduced from 65 to 55 below Asbury Park, as if it was the Parkway and not the Governor’s irresponsible conduct that was responsible for the near fatality of his crash. And as part of his general denial of responsibility, lowering the speed limit put the burden on the ordinary motorist. To make matters worse, during the entire general election campaign for Governor, Corzine never once visited Ocean or Monmouth Counties. If he was trying to incite the residents of Monmouth and Ocean counties to anger, lowering the speed limit on the Parkway was a good way to do it and not campaigning at the Shore, that’s a good strategy. One million people live in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. No wonder they turned out in droves to vote 2 to 1 for the challenger.
Either Corzine is an idiot, which is possible given the incredibly bad decisions made during his governorship and campaign for re-election, or more likely, he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. During the campaign he claimed he was a Marine. When asked about abandoning his run for re-election he said he was a Marine and Marines never give up. True, but they never give up for the good of the group, they are supposed to sacrifice themselves for the good of the group. Corzine invoked the Marine values for the opposite purpose, to aggrandize himself. Furthermore, Corzine, who graduated from college in 1969, enlisted in the Marine Reserves and thus avoided service in Vietnam. During the re-election campaign, he said being in the Marines was “intense.” Yes, the training was intense, but it was inconsequential compared to the combat Corzine never saw.
Personal Reasons for Voting
Of course, bulging campaign chests, corrupt election practices, hypocrisy and racist policies has never been a bar to electoral victory in an American style democracy. Corzine’s defeat was personal, not a repudiation of Obama or of the liberal Democratic agenda generally. The low turnout among Democrats shows that. Running for public office is always rewarding, even if the election is lost. Sometimes, it is even better to get almost no votes, because then the candidate knows who did or did not support her or him. Christopher Daggett got 132,728 or 5% of the vote, and the other nine candidates got about 21,000 between them, about 1%. But because New Jersey has 21 counties and the ballot arrangement is different in every county, with the Democrats and Republicans being the only ones who get the first two columns, the ten independent candidates appeared in a different position in each county.
So, when the results were finally counted, it turned out that each one of the independents had a disproportionate vote total in one county. Jason Cullen received 2,700 votes statewide, but 573 of those votes came from Burlington County and 504 from Essex, although Cullen comes from Riverdale in Passaic County. Dave Meiswinkle got 2,500 votes, 462 or 20% from Camden County. Dave lives in East Windsor in Mercer County. Kostas Petris got 2,500 votes, 774 from Ocean County, almost 1/3rd, although Kostas lives and works in Burlington County. Gary Steele got 3,500 votes, 862 in Middlesex County, about 1/4th. Gary Stein got 1,600 votes, 536 in Essex County, about 1/3rd of his total. And Joshua Leinsdorf got 1,012 votes, 302 in Union County, about 30% of his total.
It turns out that each of the counties where the nine dwarfs got disproportionate vote totals was the county where that candidate’s name was the next one on the ballot after Christie and Corzine. That means that 4,000 people went to the polls and voted blindly for anyone other than Corzine and Christie. They did not have the time or ability to really examine the platforms of the nine candidates that were excluded from the news. But the nine excluded candidates really represented the almost 60% of the voters who did not go to the polls. This shows that independents can win, that in a fair race each of the 10 independents could have gotten about 5% or 6% of the vote, just like Daggett. But this shows that for independents to win, they have to learn how to work together.
Corzine’s basic strategy was to run the Governor’s race as a rerun of the 2008 presidential race, trying to tie Christie to Bush (which was accurate and true) and himself to Obama. In the end, the race was not about taxes, the economy, employment, the environment, health care, abortion or any of the other issues normally discussed in the campaign. The 2009 New Jersey Governor’s race was about Jon Corzine, personally.