Between the lines A change at the top

Will Hoboken resident Sen. Jon Corzine become the next Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey?

Political signs seem to point to Corzine’s changing his seat from the U.S. Senate to the Trenton State House in 2005.

Gov. Jim McGreevey apparently has alienated too many people, especially in the Democratic leadership, and has many people seeking an alternative candidate, one that can stand up to the challenge the Republicans are expected to mount.

While Corzine has said nothing publicly, numerous county and state politicos are bringing up his name.

Last week, some Democrats still loyal to McGreevey used Corzine’s name as a kind of threat to bring McGreevey back into line, but now, after the governor aborted the gas tax, many are taking up Corzine’s name as a mantra.

“Too many people put themselves out for that gas tax,” one political observer said. “They pushed and shoved to get it, and then McGreevey changes his mind and abandons it.”

There are numerous reasons why Corzine could be drafted to the effort. His independent wealth would bring significant cash advance to the table, discouraging many other Republican contenders such as former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler – which could explain why Schundler seems to have abandoned his quest for the state house for a return as Jersey City mayor (see for an article on Schundler’s activities in Jersey City last week).

“One sign to look for is if Jamie Fox leaves (as gubernatorial chief of staff),” one political observer said. “If that happens, you can expect an open primary.”

Corzine won a lot of respect in the last election in drumming up support for candidates around the state, in which he made more than 150 campaign stops for Democratic candidates and raised money for their election coffers.

Strong reports out of the state Republican camp claim that U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie will use a recent campaign against corruption to run for governor. There are some who believe he will defeat McGreevey or that McGreevey will do something to damage his own campaign, causing the loss of the state house for the Democrats.

“The best thing McGreevey could do for the Democratic party is to step aside,” said one prominent official.

If Corzine does make the move, this could pave the way for Rep. Robert Menendez to finally take the next step and become a U.S. senator.

Hudson County political guru Paul Swibinski said all the congressional seats are safe for incumbents in next year’s election. But if Menendez should seek the Senate, we can likely see a strong candidate backed by Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham. Guru Tony Amabile believes this might be possible even if Menendez remains a congressman.

Around the county

Newly elected assemblyman Brian Stack seems to have shed his mantel as the mild mannered mayor in recent days. His outspoken statements concerning activities with the North Hudson Regional Fire department (see for more) seemed to set him at odds with the political set that got him elected to the state Assembly. He was also sharper in his comments concerning activities at Hudson County Community College during a recent meeting of the freeholders.

Rumors before the election had painted him into a deal that included Cunningham and State Senator Nicholas Sacco. Stack admitted some feelers were put his way, but he had declined them.

Meanwhile, the inter-community communications seem to have increased between Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts and former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler. Roberts said he has sought advice on a variety of governmental subjects. But this may also send a message to Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham, who has met with Roberts’ opposition. Schundler, meanwhile, may be building connections to Democrats unhappy with Cunningham. Could we see Schundler seeking political support from people like County Executive Tom DeGise, County Executive Chief of Staff Bill Gaughan and others in order to push Cunningham out? The 4th District Freeholder race in November won Cunningham several new enemies, and as one political operative put it: “The answer to Glenn Cunningham is one word: Schundler.”

Cunningham may not need pushing out. Now that he has become a state Senator, he could make room for a friend such as Freeholder Bill O’Dea. Most people have discounted O’Dea seeking a mayoral slot partly because of the close cooperation between O’Dea and Cunningham in the last election. But if the mayoral slot is given to him on a silver platter, how can he refuse?

O’Dea and his close ally Assemblyman-Elect Lou Manzo are getting into the Christmas spirit with two events. On Dec. 19, the crusading duo will hold a holiday party of the Moose Hall on Westside Avenue from 7 to 10 p.m. to show followers appreciation for support over the year. The duo will also sponsor a breakfast with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 20 at the same place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for children up to 12 years old accompanied by an adult.


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