Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Corzine VS Forrester - Noisy in Joisey

"This back and forth with the same kind of creepy music and foggy photos is all sounding more of the same. I think both candidates have to break through with a different ad that the voters can trust..." Ingrid Reed, director, Eagleton New Jersey Project, Rutgers University

"Every cock will crow upon his own dunghill." English Proverb

I am so glad I don't live in New Jersey. Wait, let me clarify. I love the Jersey Shore. I have friends and relatives there. It's not the place, it's the race--for Governor--currently raging throughout the state that's driving me crazy. And the ad campaigns that have taken over local TV, which means Philadelphia TV.

A quick look at the backstory that made headlines in August 2004: New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey (married, one child) was forced to out himself as gay--and resign--after having an affair with a male aide who threatened to go public and sue him for sexual harassment.

When McGreevey, a democrat, announced his resignation, suddenly a small but pivotal Blue State was in national play. And now it's become a microcosm of national politics.

As November approaches, the players--Democrat Jon Corzine and Republican Doug Forrester--are taking off the gloves.

It started innocently enough. Earlier this fall we were inundated by a TV spot with Forrester's sweet, perky wife telling us she and Doug 'met in high school and just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.' (Corzine is divorced.) It was All Family Values All the Time and my gag reflex was working overtime. Where are the substantive spots, I wondered? The hard-hitting issue ads. Let's hear what these guys stand for. Hooboy, be careful what you wish for...

Lovely, loving Mrs. Forrester was replaced by former Governor Tom Kean touting his friend Doug's honor, decency and moderate Republican credentials. Then we got average citizens claiming to be Democrats for Forrester.

Corzine's ads began by hitting the liberal democratic hot buttons--right to choose, stem cell research, tax relief--while comparing and aligning Forrester with Bush. They positioned Corzine as a business leader, not a corrupt insider. Pretty standard stuff. Nothing too offensive. Mostly, to tell the truth, boring.

But the bricks and bats started flying this month. The attack ads get more vicious, and more ubiquitous every day. They mostly insinuate, though sometimes they accuse outright.

"How are we to believe Mr. Forrester when he says he intends to change the very system of which he is a part? He runs on a campaign platform of ending pay to play and eliminating no-bid contracts at the exact same time that he's getting wealthy doing both. He preaches one thing, and practices the opposite." corzineforgovernor.com

"Jon Corzine is too close to the most powerful Democrat bosses to bring the change New Jersey demands. The pattern is very clear [two of Corzine's friends: one forced to resign, one convicted]. We have to break the cycle of bosses and corruption." doug.com
In case you missed the more subtle PR effort, look at the name of Forrester's website. Doug.com? Oh, please. Good old folksy call-me-Doug? A rich Republican. A Bush supporter. Maybe we should call him Dougie. Though lately he's been distancing himself from the president. Laura Bush showed up to raise money for Forrester. Once.

The dems aren't faring much better. Having no viable national standard bearer, Corzine's turned to Bill Clinton, who can still whip up a crowd and garner positive response in a new TV ad.

And the accusations are escalating.

"Jon Corzine voted 133 times for higher taxes."
"There's a conga line of corruption and waste in New Jersey."

"Doug Forrester has gotten rich off the taxpayers."
"Forrester got $89 millon in no-bid insider deals this year alone."
Then there are the ads attacking the attacks. The websites attacking the candidates. And showing all the ads. Phew. Give me a break.

Forrester's website is filled with attacks on Corzine and Democrats. Corzine's site focuses more on issues and endorsements.

So who are these guys?

Forrester claims he's not a career politician, but he served as Mayor of West Windsor, NJ, Assistant State Treasurer, then Pension Director under Governor Kean’s administration. And is a self-described longtime member of the Mercer County Republican Organization. He grew up poor, but is now a successful businessman in the healthcare industry with close--too close?--ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

US Senator Jon Corzine is a liberal activist who voted against the war in Iraq and was a leader in the fight against the president's tax cuts for the wealthy. He's pro choice, pro environmental controls, anti price gouging by big drug companies. He fought for crackdowns on corporate fraud and--high on my personal list--added a measure to the Bush transportation bill empowering states to use federal funds to impound the cars of drunk drivers.

Corzine grew up on a farm, attended college and grad school on scholarships and became a financial whiz with a personal fortune of over $300 million. He became a US Senator in 2000 and is well respected in the Senate, especially for his business acumen. The guy's the American--and the Democrats--Dream come true. If I lived in New Jersey, I'd vote for Jon Corzine.

However. The ads from both camps are nauseating, and I can't wait for Election Day to see an end to them. And though the idea of a Forrester victory is equally sickening, if Corzine wins, we'll have one less Democrat in the Senate. And the very real attacks in Iraq will continue.



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