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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Those Good Ol' Boys of Hazzard New Jersey

The examination of New Jersey's illiberal democracy extends to the social conditions of the Jersey political atmosphere. The idea that there is a self-interested group of people running the state seems, to someone who lives here, to be almost so obvious that it is hilarious that it should need proof.

Let's start by examining the career of Senator Jon Corzine. The most often heard (at least by me) criticism is that the Senator "bought" his office and is now "buying" the Governor's office. The Senator faces these charges because he spent his own money - rather than everyone else's - to win his Senate seat in 2000. So, this year he's ran as a populist, stressing the fact that he is looking for small donations - though big ones will be accepted.

But, of course, Corzine already went through the state and connected with all the "good ol' boys" - known collectively as the County Chairs of the Democratic Party. In fact, he made heftly donations to each of the county chairs. This, deservedly, brought charges that Corzine had bought-off any primary challengers for the Governor's post.

But, so did Republican nominee Doug Forrester. Forrester says,
"Anyone who's running for governor and knows how these things work in elections needs to understand that the local organizations need resources to get out the vote."


Forrester and Corzine have both defended themselves by pointing out the truth - this is the way politics works. Tit-for-tat. I give to your campaign and you help me get elected. That part of the equation isn't going to change as long as we have elections.

What matters, in this essay, is that both Forrester and Corzine had to cough up large quantities of money to even be taken seriously. Forrester, whose gubernatorial campaign is basically an extension of his failed Senatorial campaign of two years ago, was already connected to the local County Chairs because he was a known quantity - and because he had already held office as part of a County Committee. Corzine, who eschewed county politics in his rise to the Senate, even with the millions at his disposal, found it necessary to go back to the County Chairs and (reportedly) cut deals - or at least give that appearance. They are two of a kind - men who both seem to earnestly want reform who are caught playing by the rules of a dirty machine.

Look at it logically - if either Forrester or Corzine could have successfully sewn up their nomination without handing out tons of cash to the County Chairs, they would have. Both are businessmen who aren't known for throwing money away unnecessarily. But how many people know who their County Party Chairs are? When only about one in ten (through my own unscientific polling people on the street) knows the name of either a State Senator or State Assemblyperson, I think it is fair to estimate that less than half know their County Chair - which puts it at somewhere around four percent or so.

So the County Chairs rule their counties - with all the ties to contracting, development, and political cronyism that comes with it. They are so adept at it that even the wealthiest among us have to bow down before their thrones in order to accomplish anything. And, last but not least, they do it without anyone being any the wiser.

The Garden is rotting, New Jersey. It's time for some Sunshine.

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